Jan. 31, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Georgetown University senior football Ataefiok Etukeren (Phoenix, Ariz./The Lawrenceville School [N.J.]) takes a big step in what he hopes will be a chance at playing at the professional level on Saturday, Jan. 31 when he plays in the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star Challenge. The game will be shown live from the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on CBS College Sports at 3 p.m.
Etukeren hopes the chance of playing in an all-star game such as this will help him follow in the footsteps of another former Hoya who moved on to the National Football League, former teammate Alex Buzbee, who signed a free agent contract and was a member of the Washington Redskins.
The 6-3, 240-pound defensive end went to Texas this week, where he has been practicing with the all-star team representing The Nation.
"The experience has been pretty amazing," Etukeren said via e-mail. "I am playing with some of the best players in college football. In addition to being really good athletes, they are all fine gentleman, so it's been a good experience."
The week of practice has been more about execution for the team, but Etukeren has been able to see up close the high level of athlete across the country.
"Since it is an all-star game, the coaches have been focusing on running and executing plays," he said. "We do quite a bit of 1-on-1 drills and run defense against the offensive line. Both the Nation and Texas teams have tons of athletes. The talent level on the field is pretty similar. There are tremendously fast wide receivers and then you have some pretty big offensive and defensive linemen. In our first hitting drill I was up against 6-7 O-tackle from North Carolina. I hadn't hit since our last game in November and that first hit definitely woke me up."
What has also impacted Etukeren is the talent level at his position. "The DEs are all above 270 (pounds) and come from schools like UConn, Illinois, and Eastern Illinois. The OLBs (outside linebackers) are much smaller, but a lot faster. I believe I have the speed and strength to play both positions and that is why they listed me as a DE/OLB.
"I am faster than all the d-linemen but they play better run defense. I do hold my gaps as best as I can. A scout acknowledged this, saying that he thought I was going to be blown off the ball and was surprised when most of the run plays at me ended with a stalemate between myself and the o-tackle on the line of scrimmage."
Etukeren, who has been working out as a defensive end this week, said the opportunity to be seen by scouts from NFL teams has been exciting, as well as the opportunity to play under his coach for the week, former Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger, the current head coach at Florida Atlantic.
"I have had more interaction with Coach Schnellenberger because he is coaching my team," he said. "I did not notice any NFL coaches here but there were some general managers watching the practices. All 32 teams had scouts at the games and they watched everything from our weigh-ins to our scrimmage on Wednesday."
He is not sure what the future holds, but hopes that the chance to play in the game on Saturday will just be a start.
"The opportunity to play in this game is truly a blessing," Etukeren said. "I get to represent Georgetown University and its football program. Most of the players here did not know Georgetown had a football program.
"After the first day when I did pretty well on pass rush and laid out a fullback from Georgia during our team period, people started addressing me as `Georgetown.' I am sure that my play has changed many people's minds about the kind of athletes we have at Georgetown. The director told us on the first night that 102 of the 108 players in last year's all-star game signed an NFL contract or had a tryout. I am just happy to be playing in this game and will take whatever comes my way after this opportunity."