INDIANAPOLIS — Wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo put himself on the radar of NFL teams this past season as a graduate transfer at Syracuse. He ranked in the top 10 in all the major receiving categories with 94 catches for 1,482 yards and 14 touchdowns.
However, Etta-Tawo hasn't forgotten about the role his three seasons playing at Maryland had on getting him to this point.
"It definitely set the table," he said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. "I worked with coach Lee Hull, coach Keenan McCardell who played in the league 17 years. He did a good job with coverage recognition. It started early and I just praise them for that."
Etta-Tawo arrived at Maryland with future NFL receiver Stefon Diggs. He redshirted in 2012 and then contributed 61 catches for 938 yards and three touchdowns in 37 games spanning three seasons. His best year was in 2013 when he had 31 catches for 500 yards and two touchdowns.
His production, though, dropped in successive seasons, and Etta-Tawo ultimately decided to play his final year of eligibility at Syracuse. New Orange coach Dino Babers' offense had made an impression on Etta-Tawo when Babers was at Bowling Green and the Falcons played Maryland.
"I got a chance to see the offense with my own eyes and I fell in love with it the first time I saw it," Etta-Tawo said.
It proved to be a great fit. In Syracuse's first six games, Etta-Tawo had 47 catches for 840 yards and six touchdowns. He wound up being a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection and earning an invite to both the Senior Bowl and this week's scouting combine.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "I'm just blessed that I got that one season to show my talent and show what I can do."
As he prepared for the combine, Etta-Tawo leaned on his Maryland roots. He spoke to former Terps teammate and defensive back Sean Davis, who attended the combine last year before being drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Davis told Etta-Tawo to "be on your toes … be alert and to smile" when doing interviews.
"That's what I'm trying to do," Etta-Tawo said.
He'll go through on-field workouts at the combine Saturday. After his breakout final college season, Etta-Tawo is expected to be selected on day three of the draft.
Fournette impresses: LSU running back Leonard Fournette's scouting combine didn't necessarily get off to the best start. He weighed in Thursday higher than expected at 240 pounds, a number he attributed to water weight. He then measured a poor 28.5-inch vertical leap Friday morning.
However, Fournette, who is widely rated as the top running back in the draft and is expected to be an early first-round pick, seemed to quell any concerns when he ran an official 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash — an eye-popping time for a back of his size. Per multiple reports, that's the fastest time ever for a running back who weighs more than 240 pounds.
Florida State's Dalvin Cook, also considered a potential early first-round selection, ran a 4.50 on both of his attempts.
The Ravens aren't expected to use the 16th overall pick on a running back, but either Fournette or Cook dropping would give them something to think about.
Enjoying the experience: Old Dominion wide receiver Zach Pascal arrived in Indianapolis with the goal of proving a point for his school and his hometown while also improving his draft stock.
Paschal, who grew up in Clinton, is the first player in Old Dominion history to be invited to the scouting combine after a season in which he caught 65 passes for 946 yards and nine touchdowns.
"My initial reaction, I was kind of excited, but it was not until a couple of days [after the invite] where I realized, I'm really going to the NFL combine," Paschal said Friday. "Growing up outside playing football with neighborhood friends and watching the TV and seeing the combine, it was like, 'Yeah, I want to go there.' Now, I'm able to be here and it's exciting. The university was excited, the coaching staff. It's basically getting ODU on the map. It's a growing university, great school, great coaching staff, great program. I'm just trying to do the best I can to represent Old Dominion."
Old Dominion started its football program in 2009 and Pascal is the program's all-time leader with 233 receptions to go with 3,184 yards and 30 touchdowns.
He said he expects to be taken in the "fifth round or later" in April's draft.
"I want to show people that [Prince George's] County definitely has talent, that I've got a lot of talent," Paschal said. "I've been doubted my whole life, so it's just another step where I have to prove doubters wrong and show that a lot of talent can come from PG county."
End zone: Former Ravens offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who is now with the Buffalo Bills, helped put the offensive linemen through the on-field drills Friday. ... The Philadelphia Eagles won a coin toss with the Indianapolis Colts on Friday, meaning they'll pick 14th and the Colts will draft 15th. The Ravens will then be on the clock at No.16 overall. … New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick watched the combine drills while sporting a Johns Hopkins jacket. Belichick and Blue Jays men's lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala are close friends.