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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Israel Abanikanda fulfills lifelong dream in Jets’ preseason opener

Israel Abanikanda fulfills lifelong dream in Jets’ preseason opener

Publish Date: 08/19/2023
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
Video: Israel

Israel “Izzy” Abanikanda 2022 Regular Season Highlights | Pittsburgh RB

Running back Israel Abanikanda will fulfill a long-held dream as he steps onto the field for the New York Jets’ opening home preseason game of 2023. The 20-year-old Brooklyn-born will have his Nigeria-born parents, sister, and brother in the stands on game day.

“They were watching me when I was four years old when I first started playing football,” the running back said to The Post this week. “And now it’s like, ‘I’m 20 years old in the NFL playing against grown men, doing exactly what I said I was going to do when I was 4.’ This is a dream come true.”

This pivotal moment marks a significant milestone in his football career and is also expected to be an emotionally charged experience for Abanikanda and his family.

Mariam Abanikanda expressed that she would find it emotional to witness her son wearing a Jets uniform on the field, as she told The Post. Her husband, Saidi Abanikanda, shared the sentiment, saying that the New York Jets were his team. He acknowledged that the experience would be emotional, possibly even leading to tears.

Giving back to the family

Four months ago, when the Jets selected him as the 143rd-overall pick, Abanikanda shed tears as he could not believe how surreal the moment was. Abanikanda, who inked a four-year, $4.18 million rookie contract, expressed his desire to reciprocate his family’s care. They played a crucial role in shaping him into the focused young man he is today, helping him avoid the negative influences prevalent in East Flatbush, a path frequently taken by others.

Abanikanda attributed his ability to avoid these influences to his “strict” parents, who kept him close to home and shielded him from possible bad influences. His 28-year-old older brother, Michael, who played college football at Temple and Buffalo, was a big role model in his life.

Abanikanda has already impressed in the Jets’ first two preseason games. In the Hall of Fame Game, his first taste of the NFL, he scored a 10-yard rushing touchdown against the Cleveland Browns.

Last week, against the Carolina Panthers, he carried the ball 12 times for 56 yards, including a 26-yard burst initially ruled a touchdown but overturned when his knee touched the 1-yard line. He also caught three passes for 31 yards in that game.

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