Among the sea of Maryland wide receivers, Amba Etta-Tawo was at once unique and anonymous. Everyone recognized his name, that bouncy cadence of syllables, and Coach Randy Edsall counted him among the fastest players, but on a team with Deon Long and Stefon Diggs hogging the spotlight, what room to stand out remained?
“Beginning of the season, I was just trying to find my way to get any type of playing time on the field, with players like Deon and Stef in the offense,” the redshirt freshman said. “When my time came, I tried to make the most of my opportunity.”
Etta-Tawo’s emergence coincided with inarguably the most devastating afternoon of this season, when both Diggs and Long were hauled to a nearby hospital during a 34-10 loss at Wake Forest, broken legs suffered by both stars. That Saturday was a whirlwind after Long went down first, because Etta-Tawo was the backup tasked with replacing him.
No wide receiver has made greater strides this season than Etta-Tawo, who coincidentally enough, has done so with the long, powerful strides that allowed him to race the 100- and 200-meter dashes at McEachern High in Powder Springs, Ga. He wants to run track at Maryland too, but is waiting until after the Military Bowl to speak with the program.
Besides, postseason preparation has commanded much of his month, particularly now that Etta-Tawo will make his sixth straight start on Dec. 27 against Marshall in Annapolis. Over that span, he has recorded two 100-yard receiving games against Syracuse and North Carolina State, caught 21 passes and two touchdowns, and become a reliable deep threat for quarterback C.J. Brown. Including Wake Forest, his 431 yards are the most of any Maryland receiver during that time.
“I think I got my confidence was built more as the games went on,” he said. “Right now, it’s the most confident I’ve been so far in the season.”
Long and Diggs remain influences in Etta-Tawo’s life, and the former often texts him the same three motivational phrases before games:
Pay attention to detail.
Play with a little swagger.
Etta-Tawo has little problem with the first and third instructions. He ran a similar offensive style in high school, so upon arriving at college, he simply needed to learn the play names, because the concepts were already drilled into his brain.
As for the swagger, few Terrapins possess more of the stuff than Long, so Etta-Tawo, a soft-spoken environmental sciences major, generally keeps quiet on the field. Between football and school, he hasn’t left College Park much, and was excited for the bowl-week experience of monument tours and downtown dinners in Washington D.C.
“I think I’m a little naïve to the whole situation,” he said. “It looks like a fun experience, a lot of different opportunities.”