Scholar Stories: Abbott Carves Own Path at Michigan

April 5, 2017

Every Wednesday during the 2016-17 academic year, will highlight a different student-athlete and their academic path. These are our Scholar Stories.

Maddy Abbott watched her first University of Michigan football game when she was five years old. When she was eight, she dressed up as a football player for Halloween, winged helmet and all.

While other kids were learning the words to "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," she was learning "The Victors."

As the daughter of Jim Abbott, a 10-year MLB veteran and All-America pitcher at Michigan from 1986-88, going to any other college wouldn't have felt right.

"I loved Michigan. It was something I grew up with," said Maddy, a sophomore setter on the U-M volleyball team. "When I came on my official visit, I immediately fell in love with it. I remember walking into Cliff Keen Arena, turning to my parents and saying, 'I know I'm going here.'"

Nearly halfway through her own collegiate career, Maddy is plenty comfortable carving her own path at dad's alma mater.

"Then when I first got on campus, I was surprised how much he was around. Went to Pizza Bob's, he's on the wall. Obviously his number is retired over at the baseball field. There's a picture of him in the Academic Center. It's like, 'Oh, hey Dad!'"

Abbott is majoring in English. Growing up, she loved to read and write, though she admits finding time for either -- outside of schoolwork, of course -- is difficult. She honed her writing as editor for her high school newspaper. When the family goes to Harbor Springs in the summer, she makes sure to stop by the local bookstore and kill time browsing, searching for something that piques her interest.

"Sitting down and writing a paper has always been way more enjoyable than studying for a test or filling out a math assignment," said Abbott. "It came easier. It didn't quite feel like work."

Abbott is one of three setters on the volleyball team, serving as the "veteran" of the group to freshmen MacKenzi Welsh and Katerina Rocafort. Playing for one of the best teams in the toughest volleyball conference in the country, Abbott would be the first to admit that she's not the tallest, strongest or most explosive player on the court. But ask any of her teammates or coaches and they'd say she has one trait that can't be measured by statistics.

"Working hard is something that's just part of my makeup," Abbott said. "I don't think I'm the most talented or gifted person in the gym, so every day I have to work my butt off to be even half as good as these girls. I'm always inspired by my teammates and how hard they work. I want to match that intensity."

That competitiveness and drive also extends to the classroom.

"I'm very competitive when it comes to my grades," she said. "That's just something that I've always taken a lot of pride in. I'd be the kid who'd come home as a fourth grader and do all their homework on a Friday night and not do anything else.

"Some people don't even need to open up a book and they can get an A. I'm not one of those people. But if I can put an extra hour or two into my studies, I can compete with some of these kids who are so, so smart.'"

With at least two years remaining until graduation, Abbott doesn't yet have to worry too much about any post-college career plans. She's not ruling out a fifth year, either; teammates Ally Davis and Kelly Murphy both went that route and are finishing up their studies in the Master of Management program at the Ross School of Business.

When pressed about a dream job, Abbott is quick to point out that it has nothing to do with her major. She thinks designing layouts of stores -- think what the inside of a Nike Outlet looks like -- is the coolest job. Perhaps she gets that from her mother, Dana, who is an interior designer.

"I tell people that and their first question is, 'Why are you majoring in English?'" she said. "What's in the front? What's in the back? What's on the walls? I like to categorize things and see them in a certain way. There's a reason for everything."

As it turns out, Abbott didn't need one reason to come to Michigan. She had plenty already.

"I looked at a couple other schools, but none like Michigan," she said. "It's the best university on the planet. Can't beat that."

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