Daniel Ezeagwu just had to laugh when asked how he went from all in for UVA to "Fear the Turtle." See, the Colonial Forge (Stafford, Va.) cornerback was truly split on his two top suitors, the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland. Both were great academic schools. Both offered early playing time. Both had coaching staffs he respected. Both had campuses he absolutely loved.
Even so, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, went on record following his UVA official Jan. 17 that he was very close to committing to the Wahoos. So, why, then, did he opt for College Park, Md., over Charlottesville, Va., while on an official visit to UMD Jan. 26?
Turns out the Terps held a trump card they may not have even been aware of.
"Well, you see, a couple things played into that," Ezeagwu said, chuckling. "See while I was at Maryland, there was this other dude there, Nnamdi [Egbuaba, from St. Frances Academy in Baltimore], who just committed to Maryland, and he was just a really cool dude. We really connected on the visit. And [on Jan. 26] when we went to meet with [Terps head coach Randy] Edsall, he was like, ‘Yeah I just committed.' So then I was like, ‘OK, OK, I guess it's my turn (laughs).' We both kind of pulled each other to Maryland.
"But, you know, Nnamdi is from Nigeria like me, and just talking to him, yeah, he was a big factor. I'd never met him before, but I already know we're going to be best friends. And Nnamdi, he's actually from Nigeria, so he was talking to my parents in their language and all that. They were talking about having him over for Thanksgiving already (laughs). So we're going to be roommates at Maryland; Coach Edsall said he could make that happen for us."
Well, at least that's the story Ezeagwu likes to tell about why he chose to attend Maryland the next four years. Naturally, there's much more to it than hitting it off with a fellow Nigerian.
"Education wise, Maryland really does a good job setting you up for internships," said Ezeagwu, who plans to major in sports medicine. "And football wise, they have one of the best defensive coordinators out there, they're going to the Big Ten and I love the way their DBs play. And I just really like the city feel of the school; I could really see myself living there."
More than anything, that aforementioned defensive coordinator deserves props for bringing in Ezeagwu, who looks to be a top-flight defender. Ezeagwu said he met with Brian Stewart twice in the last month, and the UMD assistant appealed to both the family and the up-and-coming corner.
"My parents (aunt and uncle) liked how genuine he was, but one of the big things is Coach Stewart kept me informed and told me straight up what he saw in me and what role he saw me in," Ezeagwu said. "He didn't say anything without backing it up or showing me exactly what he meant to do with me. So basically, at Maryland I'm going to be the boundary corner, and that's a position with a lot of responsibilities.
"So he's expecting a lot from me and is confident I can get the job done. I run well, I break well, I'm physical, aggressive, and I'm there in a heartbeat. I have to work on my technique some, but I feel like I can definitely play that [boundary corner] role for him and Maryland."
While Ezeagwu obviously heard Stewart loud and clear, the official visit itself certainly played its part as well. Ezeagwu had never been to Maryland prior to his trip -- he went with his aunt, uncle and twin brother, Colonial Forge linebacker David Ezeagwu – Jan. 24-26.
After arriving Friday afternoon and eating lunch, Ezeagwu met his host, Terps safety Sean Davis, who the Virginia corner described as "very cool." Davis introduced Ezeagwu to the other defensive backs, including Dexter McDougle, Will Likely, J.J. Johnson and a few others, and over a round of Madden they discussed the Colonial Forge product's future.
"All those guys were saying, ‘Come here, you'll like it, and you'll like how we play,'" said Ezeagwu, who was accompanied by his brother the entire visit. "'And the uniforms? Come on -- you know you love those. And we're playing Big Ten ball… Come on, you know you want that, right?' So, yeah, those guys were all into it, trying to get me on board (laughs)."
After eating a steak dinner Friday night and then having breakfast the next morning, the Ezeagwus toured the academic buildings. Daniel Ezeagwu liked learning about the sports medicine program, but his parents were impressed with the school's overall academic structure.
"My parents were very happy when I chose Maryland because they thought it was the best fit academically," said Ezeagwu, who also mentioned that his brother David, whom he's extremely close to, was happy for him as well even though the two won't be attending the same college. "They loved it there and feel I'll do really well there with my education."
After lunch at the Gossett team house Saturday -- " I loved the view from Gossett," Ezeagwu said – Ezeagwu took in the Terps-Pittsburgh basketball game at the Comcast Center. He said that gave him a taste of what the fans are like at Maryland games.
"That game was a lot of fun, just seeing all the people there and how Maryland fans can be," Ezeagwu said. "I loved the atmosphere."
But the highlight of the visit, besides hanging out with Egbuaba, was seeing the locker room. Ezeagwu said he was in awe of all the different Under Armour uniforms and color combinations.
"That was just, Wow," Ezeagwu said. "Like, they had my number 15 laying out for me in black, and that was awesome. I tried that thing on, and I was like, ‘Yeah, this is nice, real nice.'"
By Sunday morning, Ezeagwu was practically sold on the school. All he needed was a little nudge from Egbuaba, and he was ready to tell Randy Edsall he'd be a Terp too.
"It was kind of funny how that meeting went -- Coach Edsall was joking around. We switched chairs and all that, and it was fun," Ezeagwu said. "My parents were there, too, and they were kind of laughing. But, anyway, Coach Edsall was just saying he could really see me at the school and how I could be part of the movement at Maryland. Then he said, ‘What do you think? Ready to come to school here?' And I was like, ‘Yeah, I think I'm going to commit.'"
Thus, Ezeagwu became one of the final members of Maryland's 2014 recruiting class.
And he's not about to back out now.
"That was great, man. It was a relief, you know? I was so happy, because this is where I want to spend my next four years," Ezeagwu said. "I made the right choice, and I'm excited. Just let all those Terps fans know that me and Nnamdi, we're ready to show what we can do."
Ezeagwu Finds Another Brother at UMD
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