First Palestinian-American in NFL
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First Palestinian-American in NFL

Will Oday Aboushi be the Hank Greenberg of the Muslim community?

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Oday Aboushi, newly drafted by the NY Jets, is the first Palestinian-American NFL player. (Courtesy Oday Aboushi's Facebook page)
Oday Aboushi, newly drafted by the NY Jets, is the first Palestinian-American NFL player. (Courtesy Oday Aboushi's Facebook page)

The National Football League has its first Palestinian-American player now that Oday Aboushi has been drafted by the New York Jets. The 6’6”, 310 pound offensive lineman, a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, was selected by his hometown team with the No. 141 overall pick in the fifth round on Saturday.

Selected to the Senior Bowl as one of the top players in the country at his position, Aboushi was Virginia’s best offensive lineman and earned first team all-ACC honors. Playing both right and left tackle, he started every game during the past three years.

He’s not particular about what position he’ll play with the Jets. “I’m going to play any position, wherever I’m needed to play, whatever is going to help the team be better and help the line come together as a group,” Aboushi said to the Washington Post.

“I don’t think I can put into words how excited I am to be a New York Jet, to be with my hometown team,” said Aboushi, the ninth of ten children of a family that immigrated to Staten Island, New York from Beit Hanina. As a professional athlete, he has distinguished himself among his siblings, who are all professionals in the legal, medical, business and academic fields.

A practicing Muslim, Aboushi fasted from sunrise to sunset during every training camp at Virginia, as they always fell during Ramadan. In 2011, he was honored among a dozen Muslim athletes at a special reception marking Eid ul-Fitr at the State Department hosted by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It’s very different,” Aboushi has remarked about being a Muslim on a team made up mainly of Christians. “But at the same time once we’re on the field, we’re all one. That’s the great thing about us being in a sport, on a team. No matter where you come from — your background, your practice, your religion — when you get on the field, you’re all brothers, you’re all there to help each other, and you’re all working toward one goal,” he said.

Upon achieving his goal of being drafted by the NFL, Aboushi tweeted “Gang Green baby #Jets,” using the New York team’s nickname. He responded to all the congratulatory messages, including many emphasizing this historic first for the American-Palestinian community, with “Thank you everyone for all your support. Wallah it means the world Wallah it means the world to have support on this wonderful journey. ‪#Hamdallah ‪#blessed.”

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