Offensive lineman Oday Aboushi from the University of Virginia was selected by the New York Jets in the fifth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, making him one of the first Palestinian-Americans to play in the NFL.
Aboushi, a Brooklyn native, performed exceptionally well both as a student and as an offensive and defensive lineman when he attended Xaverian High School. Intent on challenging himself academically, he chose to attend the University of Virginia which is known for its academic reputation. There he played for four years, starting over three dozen games and earning a selection to the first team All-ACC squad. He graduated in the winter with a degree in sociology.
Standing at 6’5” and 310 pounds, Aboushi is known for his ferocity and good blocking instinct on the field. The Jets will hope to utilize him in protecting the pocket.
Aboushi comes from an arguably unique background. He is the ninth of ten children born to Palestinian parents who immigrated to New York from their town of Beit Hanina in the occupied West Bank. Aboushi speaks English and Arabic.
He is also a devout Muslim, one of very few in the NFL. During Ramadan, which fell every year during training camp season at Virginia, he fasted from sunrise to sunset every day. He was one of almost a dozen Muslim athletes honored by the U.S. Department of State for his contributions in 2011.
Aboushi is widely regarded as one of the top offensive tackle draft picks in this year’s NFL Draft.
Aboushi tweets here.
Other NFL players with Palestinian backgrounds include Nader Abdallah, who signed with the Baltimore Ravens, and Gibran Hamdan, who was drafted by the Washington Redskins in 2003. Hamdan, who retired in 2010, is half Pakistani and half Palestinian. Tarek Saleh is also identified as a former NFL player of Palestinian descent, having played for both the Carolina Panthers and the Cleveland Browns before retiring.
Editor’s note: Special thanks to everyone involved in gathering information on Palestinian-Americans in the NFL.