EAST LAKE – Tunisia Grant Abraham is used to being recognized as the wife of Donnie Abraham, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets cornerback who became a high school, college and professional football coach after his playing days.
But she’s the first to admit she doesn’t fit the mold of the typical coach’s wife.
“No. I’m the worst football coach’s wife ever,” she said in the media room at the Innisbrook Tennis Center. “I don’t understand how you can give everything up and just follow them around.”
One thing becomes clear after talking to Abraham is that she is not a follower.
A Georgia native and lifelong athlete who graduated summa cum laude with a degree in communications and public relations, Tunisia met Donnie while both ran track at East Tennessee State University in the early 1990s.
“I played video games and I beat him at Sega Genesis football, twice, and he fell in love!” she recalled with a laugh. “That was it for him.”
After graduating the couple wed, had three children — former East Lake and USF safety Devin, Valencia College student Olivia, and current East Lake cornerback Micah — and eventually moved to Tampa, where Abraham gave up her marketing career to raise her family and pursue other interests.
“Office life wasn’t for me,” she stated, noting she worked for the city of Atlanta’s communications department as well as for the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays in their inaugural season before switching to fundraising work for the charitable foundations of two former Buccaneers linebackers, Pro Football Hall of Fame member Derrick Brooks and Ryan Niece.
While Donnie’s playing career took him from Tampa to New York, and with subsequent coaching stops at East Lake, Gibbs and Clearwater High schools, IMG Academy, the University of Illinois and the now defunct Alliance of American Football, Tunisia kept the Abraham family rooted in the Tampa Bay area.
“For a while all I did was cook, clean, pack lunches and travel,” she said, noting hers and Donnie’s family were extremely helpful while he was still playing. “The kids couldn’t care less if Donnie’s there—they wanted me there.”
It was during this time she explored several new interests, including owning several businesses and developing a knack for photography she discovered while Devin was a standout safety for the Eagles from 2011-2014.
“I kept myself busy — I opened a boutique on Dale Mabry that I had for 10 years and owned two Zaxby’s franchises — and I would always take pictures of Devin as a hobby,” Abraham said. “I was always giving CDs of photos to the other parents and then all of my pictures turned up on the walls of a local restaurant and I’m like, ‘hold on! I’m gonna have to start charging for this.’ ”
Abraham’s photography career started to take off as Donnie and Devin moved around and her younger kids became active in sports.
“I started doing head shots for the programs and shooting tournaments at IMG and it started growing,” she said, noting she traveled to all of USF’s road games during Devin’s senior year and she intends to follow Micah when he starts playing at Marshall University in the fall.
Abraham now has a website, TAG Photography.net, which features a collection of her work, including weddings, senior portraits, family shots and, of course, sports. Her rapid ascent in the photojournalism world was evidenced by her gig at the inaugural Innisbrook Tennis Open in April.
“I’m the United States Tennis Association’s photographer for this tourney,” she said of the event which featured a women’s 80K pro event as well as exhibition matches with John McEnroe and Jim Courier.
While she said she hopes to make it to the “Big House” to cover the US Open in New York someday, Abraham, a real estate agent who also volunteers for the local leukemia-lymphoma society, knows she has enough on her plate to keep her busy until she crosses that goal off her list.
“After I get a massage on Monday, I’ll be back on the real estate grind,” she said. “But that’s what I love about photography—I can do it on my own time, and people appreciate it. I can relate to the athletes and their family members. They like to vent to me because I listen!”
Speaking of family members, Tunisia will soon be able to add baby photos to her portfolio, as she and Donnie are anxiously awaiting the birth of their first grandchild.
“I’m Big Mama and he’s Ice Pop,” she said with a laugh as she grabbed her Canon and headed to the hardcourts.