Brooklyn native Israel Abanikanda calls joining home team Jets a ‘dream come true’
With the 143rd pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Jets selected running back Israel Abanikanda out of the University of Pittsburgh.
The Brooklyn native was sitting at home when his phone started ringing on Saturday afternoon. When Abanikanda saw the New Jersey number come up with the Jets on the clock, he said it was very exciting realizing he was staying home.
“I was laying my head on my mom and it just rung,” Abanikanda said. “It’s a dream come true. I look forward to staying home, staying close to family. Just for that happening, it’s an unreal experience.”
Abanikanda was named the New York State Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at Abraham Lincoln High School. He went on to play three years at Pitt where he became one of the most prolific backs in the nation.
The shifty workhorse missed just one game and finished his junior season tied for the FBS lead with 20 touchdowns. He also ranked second in rushing yards per game (130.1) and all-purpose yards (164.09).
Despite that, Abanikanda had to wait until the fourth round to hear his name called, though flying under the radar is nothing new for the 5-foot-10 running back.
“I’ve always been underrated. Being underrated is nothing new to me, that just motivates me and pushes me to the next level,” he said. “I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder since I was young.”
Abanikanda will bring that fire and passion to the next level, where he joins a Gang Green back field consisting of Breece Hall, Michael Carter, and Zonovan Knight. What else should Jets expect to see from their newest back?
“You’re getting a running back that can break tackles. I can run in any type of scheme, outside zone, inside center. I can also line up in the slot, catch the ball and break away, home run running,” Abanikanda added. “When I see green, I know I’m going to score.”