FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- After Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of Staten Island, Oday Aboushi was worried about his parents. Their home is just blocks from the shore near Tottenville. Despite the demands of school and football at the University of Virginia, Aboushi made time to volunteer with Jets linebacker David Harris.
The future teammates had a football connection and raised funds together before spending a December day handing out hot dogs and other supplies to a local community hit hard by the storm. They spent the better part of the day outside with Aboushi’s neighbors, who were greatly affected by Sandy.
“We were able to donate $10,000 worth of jackets and give out food and clothing and just pretty much be comforting and supportive to people,” Aboushi said.
Picked by the Jets in the fifth round, the 6-foot-5, 308-pound Aboushi is now commuting from that house to the Jets practice facility. He says he’ll get a place closer to Florham Park if he makes the roster. And the odds of that look pretty good.
On Friday, the Jets announced they had signed him. Later that day, Aboushi played left tackle on the first day of the rookie minicamp, protecting second-round pick Geno Smith.
Aboushi, who was raised in the cultural melting pot that is Brooklyn, is one of a few players of Palestinian heritage ever to be drafted in the NFL. It was a fact that even he wasn’t aware of until close to the draft, when he started getting tweets and emails from Palestine, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. Those communiqués were full of warmth and respect, and Aboushi says he carries that with him.
“I’m here to do a job, my job, and my job is to play football,” Aboushi said, “but I feel like that’s another support system I have, being one of the first Arab-Americans to play football or get drafted.”
The Middle East may be his parents’ homeland, but the first time he went to Palestine was his freshman year. It was a completely different world, although filled with the same kinds of people he knew growing up in Brooklyn.
“That was the biggest culture shock I’ve ever seen, just to see the way people are treated down there,” Aboushi said.
It might be easier to process now that Aboushi -- the ninth of 10 children -- has graduated in three and a half years in December from UVa with a degree in sociology. He started thinking about his major at about the same time he traveled.
“I started taking classes there to see what I liked and where my head might be,” he said. “I took a few sociology classes and started to like them, and before I knew, I was halfway through my major so might as well continue trucking.”
Finishing early at a school like UVa while playing football is just one sign of Aboushi’s ability to remain organized. Now that the Xaverian graduate has returned home to play for the Jets, he can bring all that focus to Gang Green.