Israel Abanikanda, 4.29 (2023 NFL Draft Round Five)

[please click photo for link to the video]


Brian Costello, New York Post: What was it like when you got the call from the Jets?

When I got the call, it was random, actually. I was just laying my head on my mom, and it just rung, so I looked and I saw New Jersey. I looked up, it said the Jets. I’m like, ‘Man, I’m staying home.’ It was so exciting, it’s unreal.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: What does it mean to you to be able to play close to your hometown and possibly in front of your family and friends?

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


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: What type of running back are they getting with you?

They’re getting a running back that can break tackles, I can run in any type of scheme, outside zone, inside zone, under the center. I can also line up at slot, catch the ball and breakaway, home run hitter with great ball security as well.


Brian Costello, New York Post: What’s it like to know you’re playing with a college teammate? They just took Carter Warren a little while ago.

It feels amazing. We were just roommates for the combine, just talking about it like, ‘I wonder what team we’re about to go to.’ Playing on the same team as my o-line, that’s amazing. That’s an unreal experience as well, just something you wish for.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: I read about how you feel like you have something to prove, like a chip on your shoulder, especially waiting until day three of the draft. Have you always felt like you had to play with a chip on your shoulder and just the motivation to prove people wrong?

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.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Is there a running back you kind of model your game after?

Definitely, I was looking at Reggie Bush, LT (LaDanian Tomlinson).


Brian Costello, New York Post: Tell us about your football journey? How did you get into football? I know Abraham Lincoln High School is known for some basketball players coming through there, how did you end up in the football world?

Really my brother, my older brother. He first started playing football in little league, and I started playing football by four years old. Me and him just wanted to be different than everybody else in New York City. Everybody was basketball players and named so high. We wanted to be different and be the only one’s named so high in football. That just made me carry on the support and the love of football.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Izzy, I’ve seen you described as a home run hitter. When you get the ball, how quickly do you know you’re going to be able to break free and score? Is there something you see like, ‘Alright, I’m about to score right now?’

Definitely. When I see green, I know I’m going to score.


Antwan Staley, New York Post: You have a track background as well. Just talk about how you think that helps you on the football field.

That definitely helps me a lot. I started doing track when I was young, but then I continued in high school when I really started running track. That helped me a lot, the workouts, being more flexible, being more durable, being more conditioned and just felt like I could run faster. That definitely helped me on the field.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Izzy, what was your interaction like with the Jets during the pre-draft process?

I talked to the Jets a couple times, definitely the running back coach at the combine and the informal, then he came back to my pro day and showed a lot of love. I talked to him before and after the pro day and then he still was showing a lot of love, so I felt like we had a good connection and relationship.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Tell us about that Virginia Tech game. Looking at those numbers, they’re pretty incredible.

Virginia Tech game, 320 yards, six touchdowns. That really happened, it just happened so quick. I just kept feeling it that day. 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.


Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Izzy, as that game is going on though, do you even realize what’s going on? Unless I’m mistaken, none of us in this room other than you have had a game like that, so as that’s going on are you like, ‘That’s another touchdown, that’s another 10-yards,’ what’s that like?

It was just like, ‘Ok, we got one, I got two, then I got three.’ It was really going back and forth, because they were good too. Virginia Tech was good, score was going. I really wanted to win, but then when I kept seeing the touchdowns I was scoring, my teammates were like, ‘Come on you got to go for a record.’ And I was like, ‘Alright, let’s keep going.’


Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Izzy, what area of Brooklyn did you grow up in? Was it near Ocean Parkway near Lincoln?

I was born and raised in Bed-Stuy, but then I ended up living for the past 13 years in East Flatbush, Brownsville area.