A true behind-the-scenes guy
If you think Abanikanda would rather catch the winning touchdown or make a game-clinching run to help secure Atlanta’s first Super Bowl title, think again.
“Put it like this: we’re like offensive linemen,” Abanikanda said when describing his role as a scout. “You’re never in the paper. Your name will never be called out over the intercom, but you do the dirty work. And when you see a touchdown, big catch, big play, you cheer – you’re just as happy as the guy who caught it or ran the ball. And that’s OK with me.”
Abanikanda relishes his role of being what he calls a behind-the-scenes guy. It started when he was playing linebacker in college at Southern Miss from 2005 to 2008. As he progressed through his career and started to wrap up his senior year, the reality that he might not have a long run – or any run, for that matter – in the NFL started to set in. But he loved the game and still wanted to leave his mark on it.
Abanikanda’s run in the NFL as a player was a short one. He participated in a rookie minicamp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Raheem Morris’s first year as head coach, but he wasn’t signed. He later returned to Southern Miss as a volunteer and that’s when he started to pay closer attention to the visiting scouts – and develop connections as he learned about their craft.
“I knew I wanted to have a greater impact on the sport I love – behind the scenes and in the front office,” Abanikanda said. “I wanted to be more hands-on with picking players. And it’s kind of challenge because you never know – it’s more so predicting, projecting and that’s the art of it and the challenge you have. So, I wanted to succeed in putting pieces together or have an impact doing it, an impact on a greater scale.”
Abanikanda developed his skills, learned as much as he could from other scouts and began networking. And then in 2012, Abanikanda attended the Senior Bowl and introduced himself to a number of general managers, including Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff.
Abanikanda was eventually offered an internship with the Falcons in 2012. He impressed the Falcons enough to be promoted to the Southwest area scout in 2013.
“We had a lot of movement then – Dave Caldwell left, Les Snead left, people sliding up, they were taking people to their organizations,” Abanikanda said. “I came in at the right time.”