Image Contributor
Senior defensive lineman Ataefiok Etukeren

In life, persevering through tough times is a tall task.

The same is true in sports. How does a team avoid falling into a culture of losing when it experiences defeat the majority of the time?

One man who can answer that question is Georgetown senior defensive end Ataefiok Etukeren. He is in his fourth year as a Hoya – and he has been a part of just eight victories.

“It’s tough,” said the 6-foot-3, 245-pound pass rusher. “Especially when you go 2-9 your sophomore season and then 1-10. But I’ve stayed committed to this program, and all that matters is turning things around. When I was recruited here, I was told that a few other guys and I were going to be big parts of turning this thing around. So we need to come out and play well against Richmond, a top-10 team, and try and pull off an upset.”

Etukeren and the Blue and Gray (1-5, 0-3 Patriot League) will attempt to do just that when they travel south to take on the Spiders tomorrow at 3 p.m. Richmond might be the best team Georgetown will see all season.

“With our option attack, we’ve got to find ways to block ’em and read ’em,” Hoya Head Coach Kevin Kelly said. “We’ll need to protect well and catch the football. On the other side, we need to tackle well. They have a lot of big backs, so we need to do a good job of gang tackling.”

Etukeren will lead the charge on defense – he will be playing at outside linebacker this week – and will look to add to his team-high five sacks. He also leads the Hoyas in tackles for losses with nine. When asked specifically about the strongest aspect of his game, Etukeren gave an interesting response.

“My strength is in the way we practice,” he said, without hesitation. “Going up against the offensive line in practice and on the sled, it’s a total group effort. We always need to be cognizant of our responsibilities and do the best we can to mess up the other team’s offensive scheme.”

Kelly has gotten the chance to coach Etukeren for nearly three years and has nothing but glowing remarks about one of his senior leaders.

“He’s a great kid,” Kelly said. “He’s got a great work ethic and has done a great job in the weight room and in the classroom. As a football player, he has vastly improved from year to year.”

He only played in two games during his freshman season, but was a starter for his entire sophomore year and ended his junior campaign – during which he played in just nine games – as the team’s sixth-leading tackler. Though experienced with the Hoyas, Etukeren is relatively new to the game. In fact, his first year of high school was also his first year of football. Although he is an Arizona native, he chose to attend school in New Jersey.

“My brother was recruited to go to [The] Lawrenceville [School],” Etukeren said. “I then ended up applying there and was waitlisted, but got a call in the summer that I had gotten in. So I started playing football. I was only 155 pounds, and I had always wanted to play, but my parents never let me.”

Growing up, he played both soccer and basketball, but he emerged as an all-state football player at Lawrenceville.

A well-spoken individual, Etukeren carries himself in a manner similar to that of Jason Taylor – he even bears a very slight resemblance to the Washington Redskins defensive end. Might they also be sharing the same profession next year? Several NFL scouts have attended Georgetown games and practices to have a look at the defensive star.

“First of all, I’m looking to secure a marketing and operations job for after graduation,” the honor student said. “I’m keeping things in perspective – I know I’ve gotten some attention from the NFL, but I’m not putting all of my eggs in one basket. Wherever football takes me, I’ll pursue it.”

Hoya Notes:

– Richmond is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association and is 5-3, with a 3-2 conference record. They suffered a 16-0 defeat at the University of Virginia, a 26-20 loss to 5-1 Villanova and a 38-31 loss to 6-1 James Madison. The Spiders are ranked ninth in the Football Championship Subdivision.

– In the loss to Bucknell last week, the Georgetown offense showed marked improvement – the Hoyas finally ran the ball effectively and scored 24 points. That progress clearly does not replace the fact that Georgetown lost the game.

“It’s progress, but we’re certainly not happy,” Kelly said.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.