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Jets Rookie RB Izzy Abanikanda Has Always 'Wanted to be Different'

Fifth-Round Pick Staying Close to Home With the Green & White in New York

Pittsburgh running back Israel Abanikanda (2) runs away from Duke linebacker Cam Dillon (35) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

The newest addition to the Jets RB room, Israel "Izzy" Abanikanda, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, found out last weekend that he is staying home.

"It's actually a dream come true; a dream come true," Abanikanda said. "I always wanted to stay home, stay close to family. Just for that happening, it's an unreal experience."

The Jets fifth-round draft pick is the youngest of three children who grew up in Brooklyn. His parents are from Nigeria. Abanikanda knew from a young age, he wanted to be different from most athletes in New York. 

"Really my older brother" Abanikanda said of the reason he started playing football. "He first started playing football in little league, and I started playing football by 4 years old. From then on, it took off. Since Brooklyn was always basketball city, we wanted to be different than everybody else."

Abanikanda fulfilled that dream when he was named Brooklyn Borough MVP his junior year of high school, New York's 2019 Gatorade Player of the Year, and when he earned All-League and All-State honors his senior year. He went on to play three seasons at the University of Pittsburgh, where he ran for 2,161 yards and 28 TDs in addition to having 38 receptions. Abanikanda's collegiate career was highlighted by the Panthers win over Virginia Tech when he rushed for 320 yards and 6 touchdowns, breaking Tony Dorsett's 1975 single-game rushing record.

 "That really happened, it just happened so quick," Abanikanda said. "I just felt like I was in that vibe, my teammates were supporting, my fans were supporting, coaches supporting, I just felt a lot of support helped me lead on to that game and record breaking."

As far as the start of his NFL career, Abankikanda is excited to get to work with QB in Aaron Rodgers. It does not matter to Abanikanda that he was chosen in the fifth round; he knows what he's made of and ready to learn.

"I've been watching Aaron Rodgers since I was young," Abanikanda said. "Just playing with a veteran, a soon to be Hall of Famer, and a Pro Bowler, I get to learn a lot from him. So, I'm really honored.

"I felt like I always played with a chip on my shoulder because since I was young, I've always been underrated. Being underrated is nothing new to me. That just motivated me and pushed me to the next level in my game."

See the best images of See the best images of the 143rd overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, Pittsburgh RB Israel Abanikanda.

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