- Last Updated: 10:09 PM, June 15, 2012
- Posted: 1:25 AM, June 15, 2012
The most important moment of Michael Abanikanda’s senior year wasn’t a touchdown run or long gain. It was in a small classroom, months after the season ended – when he took the SATs for a third time.
“My back was against the wall,” he said of taking the test in May. “I had to study and accomplish my goal.”
The bruising 5-foot-8, 185-pound Thomas Jefferson running back, a B+ student, received the necessary score, clearing the way for him to take the next step in his football career. Abanikanda was accepted into Temple and will be a preferred walk-on. He will be the first Jefferson player to go straight to Division I out of high school since Dwayne Kennan went to Syracuse after graduating from Jefferson in 1986.
“That means I’m that person that was different from all the other players,” he said. “I stayed focused. I had a mindset to keep working no matter what was in front of me.”
“My hard work paid off and everything I work toward came true,” added Abanikanda, who ran for 607 yards and eight touchdowns, helping Jefferson reach the PSAL City Championship division quarterfinals. “I had faith in God and I kept working toward my goal.”
Abanikanda is just the start of the Division I parade of Jefferson football players. Highly recruited defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko, a rising senior, will announce his commitment among Syracuse, Notre Dame and Florida, July 20 at the Aviator Sports Complex. Dynamic wide receiver Kendall (Speedy) Thomas has heard from several Division I schools, such as Rutgers, UConn and Maryland, coach Gus Cyrus said.
“I’m really proud of Mike,” Cyrus said. “He was a workhorse for us. We can see Mike on TV and in a year Ebenezer and Speedy. That’s really good for the program.”
As a non-scholarship player, he will have to earn his time. He is preparing by putting himself through two-a-day workouts with a few different trainers, including his track & field coach at Jefferson, Claudel Martin.
Abanikanda said he has spoken to the Fordham coaching staff on a few occasions and they have intimated they could use him at running back, in the slot or even in the defensive backfield.
“I really worked hard to get to where I am now,” he said. “I’m glad about it, but I’m not taking it for granted.”
In Temple, Abanikanda will be joining an on-the-rise program, which under coach Steve Addazio is moving to the Big East and is coming off a 9-4 season and win over Wyoming in the Gilden New Mexico Bowl. The Owls have sent several players to the NFL in recent years, including former Fort Hamilton standout, safety Jaiquawn Jarrett.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m going to be seen in the northeast. The Big East is a good conference. That’s what I strived for when I got to high school, make sure I get to the big leagues, where the competition always is. The program is building up.Follow @NYPostsports