The Jaguars may have found a gem in undrafted free agency.
Labeled a "one-year wonder," Syracuse wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo went undrafted in the NFL Draft last week.
Etta-Tawo spent just one season at Syracuse after transferring as a graduate student from Maryland.
It was quite the season.
He set the school's single-season records for receptions (94) and receiving yards (1,482) and tied the program's record for receiving touchdowns (14).
“When I was getting the opportunity to receive those targets, I just made sure I made the best of those opportunities," Etta-Tawo said. "I tried to make every play count.”
Keep in mind, Syracuse is a program that has produced the likes of Hall of Fame inductee Marvin Harrison, two-time Pro Bowl selection Rob Moore and former second-round pick Mike Williams.
“It’s just an honor to be mentioned among those type of guys,” Etta-Tawo said. “Marvin Harrison and those types of guys. I’m blessed to be in the conversation with those guys.”
Etta-Tawo was largely overlooked at Maryland prior to his transfer. He redshirted as a freshman and only produced 61 receptions for 938 receiving yards and three touchdowns in three seasons with the Terrapins.
He had a solid first year in Maryland, but the targets dropped off in his final two seasons.
“It’s just my job to go in there and make plays when my number’s called,” Etta-Tawo said. “I’m not sure why my targets dropped, I just kept moving forward from it. Not pouting about it, just continuing to work.”
His time at Maryland wasn't all for not. He made a special connection with former Maryland wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, who now holds the same title with the Jaguars.
When McCardell was let go from the program following a regime change, Etta-Tawo decided to move on to Syracuse. The two stayed in contact and McCardell played a key role in the Jaguars landing Etta-Tawo.
"Just having the background with him, being familiar with his technique, his terminology,” Etta-Tawo said. “That was something that would help me out in the long run.”
Etta-Tawo was born in Oman. He moved to the United States in 1998.
He spent his high school years in Georgia, doubling up in sports as a wide receiver in football and a sprinter in track.
He is well-traveled.
He believes those experiences will help him adapt to the travel of the NFL. It will also help him get adjusted to his new home in Jacksonville.
Etta-Tawo will enter a wide receiver room that is stacked with talent, but he isn't concerned about that.
“I felt that anywhere I went, I’d have to prove myself,” Etta-Tawo said. “So not necessarily, I just felt that putting my best foot forward would give me the best chance, rather than focusing on who is on the roster or who’s there.”
It helps that McCardell is here though. The two spoke frequently during the draft process.
“Me and Coach McCardell, we have a good relationship, so we talked a little bit,” Etta-Tawo said. “We had a couple of conversations, there’s a lot of different things we talked about.”
Another incentive was Jacksonville's close proximity to his family. His mom still lives in Georgia and is looking forward to attending his games.
“She was very excited about that,” Etta-Tawo said. “Me being in Maryland and New York [before], me being in Jacksonville is a lot closer to her. She gets to be more involved, so she’s definitely excited about that.”
'Key' connection for Robinson and Marrone
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone used to coach the team's offensive line. He calls himself an "ex-offensive line coach" in press conferences.
He has a long history of coaching up linemen and that has helped him build relationships in the high school, college and NFL realms.
One of those connections played a key role in the Jaguars selecting Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson in the second round of last month's NFL Draft.
Marrone coached the Georgia Tech offensive line from 1997-99. During that time, he coached offensive guard Brent Key, who is now the offensive line coach at Alabama.
Key worked with Robinson on a daily basis last year.
Marrone's relationship with Key helped provide in-depth knowledge on the prospect.
"Obviously I have a lot of insight because of the relationship I had," Marrone said after the Jaguars selected Robinson.
The Jaguars' new offensive tackle said he proved himself to Key with his work ethic. Robinson clearly made a good impression on his college offensive line coach.
“I just showed [Coach Key] each and every day that I was an unquestioned leader," Robinson said after being selected by the Jaguars.
"I was the guy coming in each and every day with my hard hat on ready to work. I was a reliable and dependable guy. I come in every day with the right mindset, and I’m ultimately looking to help the team get better and maximize my ability.”
Robinson will need to up his game even more in Jacksonville. Marrone will demand a lot from his new left tackle.
“What I look for is to finish," Marrone said.
"If you have someone going are you going to put them on the ground? Are you going to finish out a play? When the ball is turned down the field are you going to hustle? Things of that nature to me when you have a guy in a good position and you can drive him off the ball are you going to stop after three steps or are you going to keep going? Those are the things you look at to get the nastiness and finish. I’m still looking for more. I told that to Cam."
It's safe to say that Robinson's ability to handle tough coaching will certainly be tested as a rookie.
"I said, ‘How was Coach Key? How was Coach Cristobal? [That] was his coach before Coach Key," Marrone said.
"I said 'If you think they were tough then you better double that when you come up here, when you come to Jacksonville.'”
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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