He’s the all-time career passing leader in Hawaii High School Football history, and in three weeks, Mililani graduate Dillon Gabriel will break training camp, as the true freshman engages on a mission for immediate playing time at UCF.
The early enrollee who took part in spring training camp this past March is in an open competition for the starting quarterback position that was left void by fellow former Trojan McKenzie Milton, who suffered a knee dislocation last year.
Milton’s backup, Darriel Mack Jr. who took over for the Knights in December was announced on Wednesday as “out indefinitely” with a fractured ankle.
That leaves the true freshman along with two others vying for the first snap.
Recently, KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello caught up with Gabriel at a workout at HOP Training in Waipio, where the reigning Cover2 Kaulukukui Award winner as the state’s offensive player of the year, admitted that going from the islands to Orando was a move that forced him to grow up fast.
“It’s crazy, I think it was a big jump. It’s very far, but having McKenzie there, having a lot of people that support me, and as well as knowing why I’m doing it definitely helped me,” said Gabriel.
“I think when I got there and I kind of just saw the workouts and what was going on, I just knew that I had to take my game to another level in every aspect as well as I think coming home from spring break. It kind of clicked that I’m a college student, that it’s real now.”
When asked what goal he set for himself as he enters training camp, Gabriel left no doubt that he’s chasing the coveted QB-1 position for the two-time defending AAC champions.
“Definitely just to go out there and compete and win that starting job, that’s the goal in mind. That’s why I went early. It was an open completion as they said and when I heard that and they gave the opportunity to go early, it just clicked for me. It was a no-brainer, and I went there, it was a great spring and now it’s just time to get down to work and once fall camp hits, it’s go time,” said Gabriel.
Gabriel’s competition will be Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush, and redshirt freshman Quadry Jones.
A three-star prospect, Gabriel chose UCF over Georgia and USC after posting a career state-record of 9,848 passing yards and 105 touchdowns at Mililani.
The Knights will open training camp in late July, ahead of the team’s season opener against Florida A&M on Thursday, August 29.