In his words: Terps walk-on Tejiri Ehrie talks about journey to Senior Day

November 22, 2013

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The Maryland football team will honor 15 seniors before Saturday’s home finale against Boston College, each player receiving applause from the Byrd Stadium crowd, handshakes from teammates and coaches, and hugs from family members.

Some, like left guard De’Onte Arnett, tight end Dave Stinebaugh and linebacker Marcus Whitfield, will jog to the sideline, strap on their helmets and prepare to start against the Eagles. Others, like defensive linemen Alex Walker and Zeke Riser, will ready themselves for reserve roles. Still others will not see the field on Senior Day, resuming their standard role of cheering and arm-waving after the ceremony’s finish. This final category is where Tejiri Ehrie falls.

A redshirt senior wide receiver who transferred to Maryland from Frostburg State in 2012 and sat out last fall under NCAA rules, Ehrie has not caught a pass this season. He has not made a road trip, nor has he dressed for home games. He serves on the scout team, part of that unheralded cavalry of walk-ons whose main job during practice is to pretend to be someone else.

Ehrie had also never met with reporters until he walked into the Gossett Team House cafeteria on Wednesday afternoon, smiling from ear to ear, summoned only because reporters wanted to speak with someone who would be honored on Saturday.

The following transcript of his interview has been edited and reordered for clarity, because when players like Ehrie have an unheard story to tell, it’s best to just get out of the way and let them talk.

I’m thrilled to be playing for this football team. I’m a walk-on, so it means a lot for me to actually step on that field and wear those colors and jerseys. I would love to go out with a bang as a senior, being a Maryland Terp.

It was an academic decision at first. I didn’t even know I would make the team, but I just gave it a shot. And here I am. I have no regrets. I love it. It’s a good team, a good family. The bond is strong. I love it.

I was nervous. Maryland football? I don’t know, am I good enough? But I did it. I’m so, so happy. I called my family. I was like, “Hey, I made it.”

Like Coach Edsall says, you have to do your job. I do my job being a scout team player, helping the defense. By me doing my job, I know I can help the defense get better each week, running routes, doing whatever I can to give them the best look. It’s just do your job. It’s a process. I don’t mind being a scout player. I’ll do it for the rest of my life if I have to.

I was born in Nigeria, Africa. I moved here when I was eight. My mom, my brother, my dad and me. We have cousins back there, but my cousin just came up two weeks ago, so it was nice to see them. When I first came up here, my first memory was wow this is a big place. This is a big place. It’s so big. My first memory was just seeing how fast everything went. It was so fast. I couldn’t adjust. That was it. Even the airport, I was like wow. It’s different over here. Just the flow of things, the traffic, the production, the environment, the society was just moving fast. Everything was just going together, like a tandem of things, a coalition working together.

I just played soccer at first. The transition was different, because it was contact. I wasn’t really used to contact, but I got used to it as time went on. My sophomore year in high school, my brother told me, “Just play football, see how it is. You’ve played soccer all your life. Just play football.” I said okay. I tried it and I liked it. I liked catching the ball. I liked scoring touchdowns. That was pretty fun. It really is different. At first, my hands were terrible. But I had good coaches in high school. They taught me the fundamentals. I got better as each year went on.

Oh man, Senior Day. When I think of Senior Day, it’s my last time I could ever play football again. It’s the last time I could walk on that field. Man, putting those pads, this is it for me. This is my last shot. I did from high school to now, I look back, yeah this is my last time I could do this and do this, lift weights and just have a blast. It was fun. Being a senior, I got this far because I worked on my skills and did what the coaches told me. Here I am.

In high school, I didn’t really … high school I just played football. My senior year, I thought about my choices of college and where exactly I could play and be good and just work on my skills. My idea was to go to Frostburg. I could go, get better, and I could play. They had my major also, so that’s where I went. I stayed three years up there, and I decided to come up here just to finish my degree up, because a Maryland degree is a really good degree compared to other degrees. That’s what I believe.

Maryland, I just felt like Maryland would be the right choice. I was thinking of other colleges, but I just felt why not Maryland? It’s the state, it’s Maryland. The best. I think it’s the best college out there but they had my major also. Kinesiology. It was a way to finish up everything together, and play football also. It was a challenging experience at first, but I got used to it. It was way different from Frostburg.

I’m trying to be a personal trainer at first, then go back to more school and be a PT aid assistant. I’m going to come back here, take some more classes. I think it was in middle school. I just liked P.E. and gym and stuff, movement and physical activity. I remember somebody came from Maryland, it was sports medicine, to my high school. He talked to us and gave us information about what he does. He comes to work with a t-shirt on and some shorts. I was like, Really? I could do that. T-shirt, shorts, no tie? I could do that. Yeah, I could do this. Sports medicine, I’ll give that a try. It’s fun seeing what you can do with this major, because it’s so big.

Am I nervous? Yes. Am I excited? No. If I could stay here and play football for like a couple more years, I would. But that’s life. You got to keep moving. I don’t know what’s next. I know it’s something good. I’m hoping for the best.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | November 22, 2013