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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
29 Apr 2023
Tribune News Service

NextImg:Jets select Pitt RB and Brooklyn native Israel Abanikanda in the fifth round of NFL draft

Running back was not at the top of the Jets needs entering this year’s draft, but it was undoubtedly a concern.

Gang Green not only drafted a running back on Saturday, but it also took a local New York City player.

With the 143rd overall selection in the fifth round, the Jets selected Pittsburgh running back Israel Abanikanda, who grew up in Brooklyn.

Abanikanda learned he was being chosen by the Jets while watching the draft news at Abraham Lincoln High School, his alma mater, with his friends and family.

Abanikanda was the second Pitt player the Jets chose during Day 3 of the draft after selecting tackle Carter Warren in the fourth round.

“When I got the call, it was random,” Abanikanda said. “I was just laying my head on my mom and it just rang, so I looked and saw New Jersey. Then I looked up and saw the Jets are up and I was like, ‘Man, I’m staying home.’ I was so excited, it is unreal.

“It’s a dream come true as I always wanted to stay home and stay close to family, so it’s an unreal experience.”

Abanikanda ended his career at Pitt with 2,177 yards and 28 touchdowns on 390 carries (5.6 avg.) while catching 38 passes for 354 yards (9.3 avg.) and three TDs. Fans might remember Abanikanda from when he made Panthers history last year. In Pitt’s 45-29 victory over Virginia Tech, Abanikanda rushed for 320 yards and six touchdowns on 36 carries (8.9 avg.) and broke former Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett’s school single-game rushing record of 303 yards set against Notre Dame on Nov. 15, 1975.

Not only is Abanikanda known for his skills on the football field, but he was also a two-time gold medalist in the 100-meter dash at the New York Mayor’s Cup Race and a bronze medalist at the state track meet in the 100 meters.

Abanikanda will fit the Jets’ offensive scheme well, as he’s a downhill runner with excellent home run speed. He also has a ton of experience running in zone-blocking schemes at Pitt.

“They’re getting a running back that can break tackles, that can run any type of scheme,” Abanikanda said. “Outside zone, inside zone, I also can line up in the slot, catch the ball, breakaway, home run runner.”


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