Super Star! ABTS Student Scores Touchdown With Rutgers Football Scholarship

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'Stay Focused' is local high school football star, Christian Izien’s motto. Throughout his illustrious high school football career, Izien kept his eyes on the prize, which culminated in a football scholarship with Rutgers University’s Scarlet Knights, a member of the Big Ten Conference’s East Division with an all-time record of 651–646–42, ranking 37th in total victories among National Collegiate Athletics Association Football Bowl sub-division programs. After hearing about Izien, described by NJ.com as “the 3-star Brooklyn speedster,” The Rockaway Times (RT) met with the 17-year-old, 5’10”, 180-pound, Arverne By the Sea resident with a 3.7 grade point average, to learn more about his football career, why Rutgers and what keeps him focused. Upon meeting him, we found Izien’s quiet and humble demeanor belies not only his size, but his accomplishments.

RT: As one of 2018’s top athlete recruits, you have a national rank of 1541, athletic rank of 112 and NY rank of 17. How does that feel?

Izien: I’m still taking it all in. It all started when I was a junior at Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, NJ, where I became highly ranked. Then when I came to NY, my rank went even higher. I knew people knew about me, but I didn’t know the ‘right’ people knew about me.

RT: You’ve attended three schools in your high school career, why?

Izien: I started high school in Queens at St. Francis Prep. I was there for my freshman and sophomore year. I liked it, had a lot of friends and grew a lot of relationships that I maintain to this day. However, it was time for me to go elsewhere to expand my opportunities and name so I could get more nationally recognized by coaches, other players and even the media. So for my junior year, I ended up going to Pope John in NJ. However, for my senior year, I thought why not come back to NY, and play football for a NYC high school, not just to make myself more recognized, but the city overall? I ended up at Erasmus Hall in Brooklyn, one of the top football programs when it comes to producing Division I talent on the East Coast.

RT: When did you start playing football?

Izien: I feel like I’ve always been running around with a ball in my hands. However, I started playing organized, contact football when I was six years old. My older brother also played football, so I guess I was meant to play.

RT: What has kept you so steadfastly focused on the sport?

Izien: It’s easy to fall into distractions wherever you are and whatever you are doing. What kept me focused was seeing how good I was at the sport, and being encouraged by others who saw my potential. My family, friends and coaches kept encouraging me by saying, “You got this far, keep it up, stay focused.’ I always kept their words at the back of my mind, so as the years flew pass, it wasn’t difficult for me to stay focused. I got better at the sport, got more recognition and as a result, look where I am today.

RT: While playing football at Rutgers, you’ve chosen to major in Finance. Why?

Izien: I’m pretty good at math, and Rutgers has one of the top business schools in the country with a great connection to Wall Street. God forbid, if football does not work out for me after college, at least I will not only be coachable, but employable.

RT: You were aggressively recruited by 10 other schools including UConn, Florida Atlantic University, Fordham and Sacred Heart to name a few. Why Rutgers?

Izien: I chose Rutgers because now I will have the chance to compete at the highest level of college football in the Big 10 Conference, which I consider one of the most competitive conferences. It’s always great to get that experience and national exposure by playing in front of hundreds of thousands of fans. Also, Rutgers is close to home. My family has watched me play basically every game of my life, and Rutgers is only an hour or two drive away, so they will always be able to come watch me play. And again, Rutgers has a great business program, also nationally ranked. So it’s a win-win going to Rutgers.

RT: What position will you be playing at Rutgers?

Ezien: I play all over the field, but at Rutgers I will be playing strong and free safety. It’s a pretty important job, where you get recognized for when you mess up or do a great job.

RT: How long have you lived in Rockaway?

Izien: I have lived here all my life with my family. We lived in the Beach 20s and 60s, then when Arverne By The Sea (ABTS) was created, we moved into the development. However, after Hurricane Sandy, we lost everything and relocated into another part of ABTS.

RT: How does your family feel about you scoring a Rutgers football scholarship?

Izien: My parents are ecstatic! We’ve worked for this for years! They’ve always believed in me and invested a lot in my education. They are a major part of why and how I kept focused. My mom is my manager, and she’s so happy that this is all happening for us.

RT: How do you incorporate living in Rockaway, our beautiful beachfront community, into your training?

Izien: Ever since I was young, my older brother and I would run the boardwalk back-and-forth from where we lived in Arverne to the end on Beach 126th Street. We would do feet-work drills to help with speed and endurance. And what better place to do it than on the beachfront?

RT: Any advice for young locals aspiring to their goals?

Izien: Stay focused. If you know what you want, go after it. It’s not impossible. I’m not the first, and I definitely will not be the last young person see their dreams come true. There have been times when I didn't want to play, felt discouraged, but if you have the right network of people encouraging and supporting you, it helps you stay focused.

RT: Lastly, Super Bowl is this Sunday. Care to share who you’re rooting for?

Izien: I’m a big NFC guy, so I’m going to have to go with the Eagles, but admittedly, I’m a Carolina Panthers fan, but they got booted out earlier, so for the Super Bowl, I’m rooting for the Eagles.

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