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New Oxford standout chooses football over basketball, will play at D-I level for Duquesne

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
  • Abdul Janneh committed to play football at Duquesne University.
  • Janneh also stars for the New Oxford basketball team.
  • Janneh led Y-A League receivers in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns in 2019.

For the past two years, Abdul Janneh has heard a consistent message from his New Oxford High football coaches. 

“I know you love basketball, but I tell you what, you’ve got a heck of a future in football if you want it,” Colonials football coach Jason Warner said.

Northeastern's Gercil Robinson, left, moves in on  New Oxford's Abdul Janneh during PIAA District 3, Class 5-A quarterfinal football action at Northeastern Senior High School in Manchester, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. New Oxford would win the game 41-14. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The 6-foot, 3-inch wide receiver and safety for the Colonials also stars on the hardwood and the track. Until a few months ago, he envisioned a college future where he was scoring baskets instead of touchdowns. 

“It’s kind of crazy right now,” Janneh said in October. “I always wanted to play college sports in general, mostly basketball actually, but just getting all these looks from football teams who are interested is kind of crazy. Keeping everything open, whether it’s basketball, football or track, is just a lot on my plate. I am still just trying to focus on this season right now and still try to stay in contact with all these coaches. It’s a ride, but I am enjoying it.” 

The time finally came to make a decision on which sport he will spend the next four years playing and Janneh made the tough decision to leave basketball behind and committed to play football at NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Duquesne University, a Northeast Conference team that finished 6-5 overall last season.

Making the decision wasn’t something that came easy for Janneh.

After a season when New Oxford won a District 3 football playoff game and Janneh led all York-Adams League wide receivers with 57 catches, 1,072 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, college football coaches were making it clear they wanted him. That was not quite as much the case for basketball, despite Janneh recently eclipsing 1,000 career points.

“I started getting a lot more football looks and it just felt right,” Janneh said. “Basketball wasn’t coming in and I love both, so I decided football was the way for me to go. It was tough trying to give up playing basketball in college, but football is also a sport I love dearly so, I just decided to go with it.”

Better late than never: Warner said the first time Janneh heard from Duquesne was around Christmas. The coaches had previously been watching film on New Oxford quarterback Brayden Long, who recently committed to Slippery Rock University, when they discovered the player catching most of Long’s passes was pretty good himself.

York-Adams football standouts commit to NCAA Division II power Slippery Rock on same day

“It didn’t take long to figure out, (Long) is throwing to the same guy a lot,” Warner said.

Janneh took a visit to the Pittsburgh university last weekend and knew it was the right school for him. While the football program and relationship with the coaches were important to him, his love for the location of the school and its ability to set him up for the future was the real selling point.

“First, it was the academics,” Janneh said. “With what I want to do — criminal justice — it’s great for me. The program, they win. The coaches, it felt like they really wanted me and I wanted to go to a place where someone really, really wants me. They didn’t pressure me into anything and it felt like the right fit for me.” 

Room to grow: One thing Warner said he stressed to coaches that called about Janneh was the ability for him to continue to grow and improve because of his younger age compared to most seniors. Janneh turned 17 late in 2019.

“What I stressed to coaches was, he’s still just a boy, he’s got a lot of growing to do. The ceiling is unlimited for him,” Warner said. “The things he’s doing, he’s doing at the age of sophomores we have on the team.”

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In addition to the room his 170-pound body has to mature and develop, Warner added that Janneh’s ability to quickly pick up things the team was doing while playing on both sides of the ball was impressive after not playing football his sophomore year.

With his college future set, Janneh is focused on finishing out his final season of basketball and competing for division and district titles with the Colonials. He added that the season just means even more now that it’s his final one and now that he’s done with recruiting, he’s free to take a breath and enjoy the journey that brought him to this point.

“It’s a big relief off my shoulders,” Janneh said. “The recruiting process was very stressful; going on a lot of visits, coaches calling me. Having that commitment, knowing where you’re going, is just a big lift off your shoulders and a sigh of relief.” 

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.