The 6-foot-3, 178-pound Etta-Tawo was reportedly offered by as many as 10 schools, but narrowed his choices to Atlantic Coast Conference rivals Maryland and Virginia before ultimately choosing the Terrapins.
A key playmaker for the Indians, Etta-Tawo caught 33 passes for 667 yards and six touchdowns last year in helping to lead McEachern to a 10-2 record, a Region 4AAAAA championship and a trip to the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Etta-Tawo’s speed, as well as his height, have been a huge part of his success. Also a member of the McEachern track and field team, he captured the Region 4AAAAA title in the 200-meter dash this past season after clocking in at 22.12 seconds. He was also second in the 100 dash (10.98) and helped the 400 relay team win the Region 4AAAAA title and place second at the Class AAAAA state meet.
On the football field, Etta-Tawo had some of his biggest games for McEachern when the team needed him the most. He caught four catches for 89 yards in the Indians’ 23-22 win over Lowndes in the second game of the season, then added six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns in a wild 64-48 victory against backyard rival Hillgrove.
Other breakout games for Etta-Tawo saw him catch seven passes for 130 yards and a score — including a 58-yard touchdown reception — in a key 43-21 win against region rival Pebblebrook. He also caught a 65-yard touchdown pass in a 31-19 victory over East Coweta in the first round of the state playoffs.
Etta-Tawo couldn’t be reached for comment, but McEachern coach Kyle Hockman was quick to praise his player.
“He’s a great receiver with great hands and very good range,” Hockman said. “He’s a big receiver with outstanding height. He can get off the ground and get balls out of the air with multiple defenders on him.
“He’s quiet, but he’s also a hard worker who loves to be in the weight room. I think Maryland is getting a great athlete. Amba will excel in that offense, and he’ll have success. They throw the ball around a lot, and that’s what was so attractive to Amba.”
Hockman also credits Maryland’s first-year head coach, Randy Edsall. After 12 years at Connecticut, Edsall was hired in January to replace Ralph Friedgen at the Terrapins’ reins.
“Randy Edsall has been in the business for a long time,” Hockman said. “He’s a positive, father figure-like guy, and kids are attracted to that.”
Etta-Tawo’s athleticism has been a huge part of his success, but he’s also been helped by the system he’s been in, as well as the quarterbacks with whom he’s worked. Hockman, who is entering his fourth year as McEachern’s head coach, operates with a spread-type of offense which uses a mix between the running and passing games.
Quarterback Trent Thompson, another three-year starter, will be back under center and is sure to look for Etta-Tawo on several occasions.
“I had a starting sophomore quarterback and two starting sophomore wide receivers,” Hockman said. “Whether it was a post-fade touchdown, or one from a go route, these two have been together around 23 games now. They work well together.”
Etta-Tawo became the second member of his family to commit to an ACC school. His older brother, former McEachern lineman Etta Etta-Tawo, signed with Clemson in the spring of 2005.
Etta Etta-Tawo never played a game for Clemson, however. After redshirting his first year, medical tests revealed a heart abnormality that forced him to give up football.