While vacationing at the home of family friends in Miami on Monday night, Melanie Sabelhaus watched with heightened interest Florida State's 23-17 Sugar Bowl victory over Florida.
"Oh my gosh, [Florida quarterback] Danny Wuerffel was just getting slammed," she said. "I just kept thinking, 'Bobby's bigger, so maybe that's going to make a difference.' "
Melanie Sabelhaus was telling her story yesterday at McDonogh's Alumni Memorial Field House. Reporters had gathered to hear her son, Bobby Sabelhaus, accept a football scholarship offered by Florida coach Steve Spurrier.
Sabelhaus, 6 feet 6, 225 pounds, turned down strong pitches from Duke, Boston College and Michigan, instead choosing Spurrier, known for giving individual instruction to his quarterbacks.
"A lot of people have said it's going to be tough going there under a great quarterback coach. But he's got a great mind, and I feel that he's going to coach me the best and develop me as a quarterback the best," said Sabelhaus, who was rated the No. 1 quarterback in the nation during the preseason by SuperPrep magazine.
"I could have been comfortable at any of the schools, but the best one for me was the University of Florida," Sabelhaus said. "I loved all the other schools, and they know that sincerely. With the tutelage of Coach Spurrier and his staff, and with the athletes and with the reputation of the school, I think that's where I'm going to fit in the best."
Sabelhaus, the state's record holder for career yardage and completions and a two-time All-Metro pick for McDonogh, has said he will sign officially on Feb. 8, the first day of the NCAA seven-day early signing period for football players.
Sabelhaus, who has a 3.0 grade-point average and scored 1,250 on his Scholastic Assessment Test, said: "We went down to Florida for a vacation just before my senior season, and I told my dad, 'This is the atmosphere I'd love to play football in.' I told him we had to look at some Florida schools."
Sabelhaus, who has tried to pattern himself after Miami Dolphins star Dan Marino, lived in Miami for three years until age 8. He said he expects to be redshirted next season by the No. 7 Gators (10-2-1). Their pass-oriented, pro-style offense still has redshirt sophomore Eric Kresser and Wuerffel, who on Monday set a Sugar Bowl record of 394 passing yards.
"I didn't want to be pushed into anything right away as a freshman," said Sabelhaus. "Coach Spurrier wanted me to learn for a year and to step in and try to compete during my second year. But I'll be ready, in case something else has to happen."
Sabelhaus' senior season was replete with honors, including The Baltimore Sun's Offensive Player of the Year.
He also was named Maryland's Player of the Year by Gatorade's Circle of Champions, as well as the state's consensus Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press.
Sabelhaus said he has benefited from the coaching of Mike Working, now at Mount St. Joseph after three years at McDonogh, and present coach Dom Damico.
"I was kind of lucky to get the kind of coaching I've had at my position, along with some great players around me," said Sabelhaus. "Florida loves to throw the football. I've been throwing the ball in high school, and I wanted to do it in college."
In three seasons, Sabelhaus set state passing records for career yardage (5,826) and completions (353).
McDonogh had gone 2-8 before Sabelhaus entered the lineup. The next seasons, the Eagles went 22-3.