Pitt commit Israel Abanikanda, a four-star running back out of Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York, was named the Gatorade New York Football Player of the Year for 2019 late last week. Player of the year awards are issued by Gatorade annually, and the best player in each state is recognized prior to the crowning of a national player of the year.
In the 2019 season, Abanikanda rushed for 1,350 yards and 20 touchdowns on 136 rushing attempts at Lincoln High School. The 5’11”, 197-pound running back also reeled in 13 receptions for 182 yards and three more touchdowns and pitched in on special teams and defense as a return man and defensive back. In those roles, he averaged 36.3 yards per kick return and came up with 30 tackles and two interceptions.
“Israel Abanikanda is a tough, strong runner with great balance, speed and acceleration,” Brian Ellis, the head coach at crosstown rival Canarsie Educational Campus, said in a statement. “He doesn’t go down on first contact, and once he breaks the first level, good luck catching him.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year awards are distributed annually to recognize athletic and academic achievement, and they take into account the character of candidates on and off the field. As a winner of the award at the state level, Abanikanda is a finalist for the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award, which will be issued later in December.