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Israel Abanikanda named to NFF Team of Distinction

Pitt running back Israel Abanikanda was honored on Tuesday with a place on the National Football Foundation’s 2020 Team of Distinction. The native of Brooklyn, New York, was one of 82 student-athletes in the 2020 class recognized for their academic achievement, athletic accomplishments and involvement in the community.

“This honor is one of the most prestigious national awards that a high school player can receive,” National Football Foundation chairman Archie Manning said in a release. “It really brings into focus the phenomenal work that our chapters do in identifying the most outstanding young leaders in their communities. We would like to congratulate all 82 honorees, holding them out as examples for future generations to emulate.”

Abanikanda is currently a freshman at Pitt and has been since January, as he graduated early from Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. During his time at Lincoln, Abanikanda was a member of the National Honor Society and earned New York City all-academic honors.

The 5’11”, 200-pound running back also distinguished himself on the gridiron, as he served as a team captain for two years and led the Public Schools Athletic League in rushing and scoring in 2019. During his senior season, he amassed 1,350 rushing yards and scored 25 touchdowns. He also impressed on defense, as he came up with 30 tackles and two picks.

For his efforts on the field, Abanikanda was named the New York Gatorade Player of the Year as well as the Brooklyn Borough’s Most Valuable Player and New York City’s Player of the Year. Abanikanda also earned a four-star rating and finished his high school career ranked as the No. 1 recruit in New York, according to recruiting website 247Sports.