For St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.) senior linebacker Nnamdi Egbuaba, his commitment to a Division I football program meant a little more than most high schoolers' verbal pledges. See, if it wasn't for a special scouting program set up in Egbuaba's native country, Nigeria, affording select athletes the chance to attend school in the United States, he'd probably still be living in rural Sokoto, a town that lacked modern conveniences.
But given the opportunity, Egbuaba took full advantage, transforming himself from a raw athlete, who had played soccer and basketball all his life, into an FBS football player. On Jan. 26, while on an official visit in College Park, Md., Egbuaba turned a dream into a reality, accepting Maryland head football coach Randy Edsall's scholarship offer to become the latest member of UMD's 2014 class.
"I feel great, like the greatest feeling in the world. I appreciate that Coach [Randy] Edsall and Maryland are giving me this opportunity," the 6-foot-2, 218-pound Egbuaba said. "It's a really big deal for me. I just started playing football 14 months ago, and two years ago I was in Nigeria. So this is really a blessing for me.
"And I haven't even told my family yet, but I know they'll be happy for me. Though, whether or not they'll ever see me play at Maryland is a whole other story. That's not going to be easy. But one thing Coach Edsall told me is that at Maryland he'd help me get back to Nigeria, see my family and spend time with them. He was very supportive of that, and I respected that a lot."
It's clear Egbuaba had a lot of love for Edsall and the Terps, but he actually did not intend to commit while on his visit. Late during the recruiting process, following a spike in his SAT score that made him academically eligible, he procured several offers and had numerous pursuers. Besides Maryland, Virginia and Connecticut both extended scholarships, and Egbuaba was supposed to officially visit each of the latter two.
But his plans quickly changed after his Jan. 24-26 trip to College Park.
"I did not know I was going to commit, but Maryland was just the right environment for me," said Egbuaba, who wants to study science or math in college. "The academic program was outstanding, the players and coaches, the football program, moving to the Big Ten -- everything was just awesome to me. I just felt like, ‘OK, this is what I want, why beat around the bush? Why waste time?' I'm very excited about Maryland's future and my future there."
The St. Frances linebacker said he had a fairly thorough conversation with Edsall Jan. 26 before leaving campus. By that time, though, Egbuaba didn't need much convincing. He had spoken to three of his high school coaches, including head coach Messay Hailemariam -- a Maryland graduate who Egbuaba said was "absolutely thrilled with his decision to attend school at his alma mater" -- and knew he wanted to be a Terp.
"Me and Coach Edsall, we talked about a lot on Sunday, and he asked me a lot of questions," Egbuaba said. "I said, ‘Yes, the academics were good.' I said, ‘Yes, I enjoyed being with the players.' I said, ‘Yes, I liked what I saw with the facilities and everything these last two days.' Then [Edsall] said, ‘OK, are you ready to commit to Maryland?' And I said, ‘Well, yes, why not? I'm ready.'"
Egbuaba had a previous relationship with UMD, having attended summer camps and coming to two games during the fall. However, he wasn't convinced College Park was the school for him until the Jan. 24-26 official. Egbuaba said his host, Malik Jones, along with several other current Terps, answered all the questions he had about the school and program.
"We were talking about where Maryland is going, and all the guys I talked to were really excited about the direction," Egbuaba said. "One thing they all kept telling me is how they really liked their coaches and Coach Edsall, and they respect what [Edsall is] doing. They believe in him."
Egbuaba went on to detail how he connected with Jones given that he's familiar with Baltimoreans (Jones attended Dunbar, which is right down the street from St. Frances), and he said he enjoyed "chilling in the dorms," taking in a Terps basketball game and trying on the MD Pride Under Armour jerseys.
Especially the jerseys.
"Oh, wow, I loved that. You know, I love Ray Lewis, he was my favorite player, so that's why I wear his number at St. Frances," Egbuaba said. "So I got to try on that No. 52 in black. It was nice, real nice (laughs)."
But his favorite part of the trip?
"Meeting a fellow recruit from Nigeria, [Daniel Ezeagwu]," Egbuaba said. "Dan actually committed [to Maryland] right when I did, and I feel like he's going to be good for the Terps too. It was like it was fate that we met there and we were meant to be on this visit together. Even though he was born here and I was born in Nigeria, we just felt like, hey, we're family.
"Dan, he really liked UVA, and when he came to Maryland he liked that a lot too. But when we met, we were just like, Hey, let's make this happen. I'm telling you, it was like fate. So it was just like that -- I committed and he committed."
Besides building a rapport with his peers, Egbuaba spent a good deal of time with the Maryland staff. He said he spoke to his recruiter, Andre Powell, as well as defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and linebackers coach Lyndon Johnson.
"They were all really excited about me, and made it obvious they wanted me there," Egbuaba said. "The big thing I took from them is that they believed in me and have a plan for me. Coach Stewart was showing me how I could do really well in the scheme."
Egbuaba, however, still has a ways to go before he has a huge impact at Maryland. After all, he's only been playing the game for a little more than a year, so he still has to work on his mechanics, technique and the like. Even so, you have to be something right when you rack up 105 tackles, 17 sacks and five forced fumbles while playing in the rough-and-tumble MIAA A-Conference.
"I know I have the raw abilities to succeed at Maryland. I believe I've learned a lot in the last year and can have a major impact in college," Edguaba said. "One thing for me, I know I can get to the quarterback, so you can look for me in the backfield (laughs)."
Egbuaba 'Blessed' to be a Terp
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