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Daily News Q&A: Thomas Jefferson’s Braden Pahanish

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Ken Eber Photography | for trib total media
TJ junior RB Braden Pahanish (22).

Giavanni Ruffin, meet Braden Pahanish.

Pahanish, a junior running back/linebacker at Thomas Jefferson, said if he could pick one athlete he admires the most, it would be Ruffin, a former East Carolina football player who produces a variety of unique motivational videos.

“He’s still trying to get to the NFL now,” Pahanish said. “He’s an inspiration to me. He talks about working hard and getting to where he wants to be from where he’s been. He grew up in a poor family and he’s worked hard all his life.”

Q: What do you remember in your first varsity season as a freshman in 2012 that some of the veteran players were saying that has stuck with you?

A: I remember my first time getting on the field as a freshman, I just didn’t believe it from watching TJ all my life. It was the weirdest feeling. I still can’t believe I’m a junior now. They told me that time goes fast. From hearing them saying that and being here now, I know it’s 100 percent true.

Q: With another year to go, do you find yourself talking to the younger players that same way?

A: Yes, you tell them it’s always been a tradition to play football here. It always goes fast, so you’ve got to take in every moment. All of a sudden, you could be playing your last game here. Take advantage of every opportunity.

Q: Did you ever imagine you’d play on a high school team that’s had the success of TJ, even though you’d heard about it coming up through the lower grades?

A: I didn’t really think we’d have this much success and I’d be a part of it. I knew we always had a good program, but I never thought I’d have this kind of role in a season like this.

Q: What has it been like to be part of a group of running backs that kind of follows along with senior leader Austin Kemp, and then, also, being a part of a defense that has been the stingiest in Class AAA?

A: We’ve got a new running backs coach this year, Coach (Jon) Drager. He pretty much just brings us all together. We always work on the things we really need to work on. We know each other’s strengths, and we do the best we can to block for Kemp. The defense has always been a strength of TJ’s. To be the middle linebacker and pretty much the leader of the defense, I didn’t think I’d ever take on that role. I knew I had big shoes to fill after Chase (Winovich, now at Michigan) last year.

Q: What’s it been like around school during football season?

A: Everybody is always asking us who we’re playing, how we’re going to do, if we’re going to keep winning. It’s exciting. Out of the three years I’ve been here so far, this seems to be the year people have had the most confidence in us.

Q: Do you have a pregame ritual?

A: Yes, since my freshman year — I had a brother on the team, Garrett Pahanish — we’d always go to Subway and sit in the same seats. We didn’t even go home, we just went straight to the locker room from there. Even though he’s graduated, I’ve been doing it that way to this day.

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