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Terps

Maryland walk-on Challen Faamatau’s special night at Ravens game ends with a scholarship, continuing a new tradition

Maryland junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, left, celebrates with friend and teammate Challen Faamatau after announcing that Faamatau, a walk-on, earned a scholarship with the Terps football team during a Ravens preseason game Aug. 14 at M&T Bank Stadium.

All Maryland football senior walk-on Challen Faamatau cared about when he attended the Ravens’ preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints last Saturday was seeing star quarterback Lamar Jackson in action. Born and raised in Hawaii, Faamatau never attended an NFL game, and just like every fan inside M&T Bank Stadium that night, he was trying to get a glimpse of the 2019 Most Valuable Player.

Jackson never took a snap, so Faamatau focused on getting food from the concession stands during the third quarter. His plans were disrupted when Terps coach Mike Locksley and the rest of his teammates told him to go back to his seat. When he returned, Faamatau saw cameras beaming on him, and the entire stadium looking in his direction as he was showcased on the videoboard. Suddenly, Faamatau looked down and saw Terps junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, a longtime friend, being interviewed on the field.

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“The hard work that he put in from where he was, to where he is now, I couldn’t be more proud of him. You know, he’s like another brother to me. I’d like to say to Challen, congratulations on being on scholarship now my brother. I love you, my boy!” Tagovailoa announced to the crowd, setting off a raucous celebration around Faamatau in the stands.

Since Mike Locksley became the Terps’ head coach in 2019, he has twice taken his players to a Ravens preseason game with the intention of handing a scholarship to a walk-on. “Anytime you can reward them and also publicly do it, really helps the morale and it’s great that it happens,” Locksley said.

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It’s a special moment for everyone involved, so Locksley wanted to find a unique way to celebrate the achievement. In 2019, Locksley partnered with the Ravens to bring the Terps to M&T Bank Stadium for a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. In the third quarter, the team announced that walk-on linebacker Bruce Miller would be given a full scholarship.

“These are guys, who play the game because they love it, not because they get a scholarship or check,” Locksley said. “The Ravens have been great partners with us when we’ve gone up there for games two of the last three years, and it just was a great way for us to reward them.”

After the Terps completed their first scrimmage of training camp Aug. 14 in College Park, Locksley announced they were taking a 45-minute bus ride to the Ravens’ preseason opener. Once again, around the third quarter, Locksley, Tagovailoa and seniors Brian Cobbs, Jordan Mosely and Lawtez Rogers stood on the field.

Faamatau’s heart was racing as he watched Tagovailoa describe how the two friends were like brothers. Once Tagovailoa said Faamatau was on scholarship, the stadium broke out in cheers, while Faamatau struggled to hold back tears as he was mobbed by teammates.

“I wasn’t trying to cry because I was on the big screen,” Faamatau said. “Once I saw [Taulia], it was very emotional because all I thought about was the memories we had as kids.”

Maryland junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and coach Mike Locksley, both pointing at the sky, celebrate after announcing that walk-on Challen Faamatau earned a scholarship during a Ravens preseason game Aug. 14 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Faamatau and Tagovailoa have known each other since they were little kids in Hawaii. Faamatau was best friends with Miami Dolphins quarterback and Tagovailoa’s older brother, Tua, a former college star at Alabama and the No. 5 pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Faamatau treated Tagovailoa like a little brother and joked about playing together in college. Faamatau recalls watching Tagovailoa transition from playing center in middle school to becoming the quarterback he is today, a 2020 All-Big Ten honorable mention in his first season with the Terps after transferring from Alabama. Their families attended the same church, and Faamatau would even sleep over Tagovailoa’s house.

Locksley understood the bond between Faamatau and Tagovailoa, so it was only right for the Terps quarterback to deliver the news.

Faamatau’s parents knew about the scholarship before he did, as Locksley called them the day of the Ravens game. Tagovailoa didn’t find out until halftime, and luckily so. “I guess they knew if they told me early, I would have told Challen,” said Tagovailoa, who threw for 1,011 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions last season.

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Faamatau previously played for Pima College and Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, where he rushed for 575 yards and 10 touchdowns to earn second-team all-conference honors. Faamatau, who also considered walking on at Texas Tech, decided to go to Maryland instead of a Division II school in Oklahoma because he wanted a challenge.

“I just feel like adversity builds you into a different person,” Faamatau said. “It shows you different aspects of the world and how to take on a situation.”

Last season, Faamatau appeared in four of Maryland’s five games, rushing one time for 4 yards and catching one pass for 8 yards against No. 12 Indiana. Faamatau, who also returned a kickoff 14 yards in the season opener against Northwestern, split time between backup running back and special teams. Locksley praised how Faamatau’s energy and passion for football has rubbed off on the rest of the team.

“I’m just so blessed and honored to just have the opportunity to be on scholarship, especially the journey that I’ve been through,” Faamatau said.

Season opener

WEST VIRGINIA@MARYLAND

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Sept. 4, 3:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM


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