Challen Fa‘amatau woke up on Sunday morning and wasn’t sure if this was the same world he once knew.
The Maryland running back thought about what had just happened the day before. Sitting in the bleachers with teammates at the Baltimore Ravens preseason game against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday. Roommate and close friend Taulia Tagovailoa on the field at the mic. Everything seemed odd, including the cameras zooming in on Fa‘amatau.
Then Tagovailoa, the former standout quarterback at Kapolei, announced that Fa‘amatau — a walk-on — now had a scholarship. Everything since has been a bit of a blur.
“They showed us on the big screen (at the stadium) and I was wondering what’s going on? Just cameras around me. I’m thinking it’s our photographers who go around taking pictures of the team, us having fun, sitting and eating and what not. Once the big screen came on, my heart started beating, and when I saw ‘Lia go up and talking about being like a brother to me, my heart started pumping even more,” Fa‘amatau said. “I started getting excited, then relief and shock.”
Challen Faamatau's road:
2016: Farrington High School
2017-18: Pima College
2019: Coffeyville Community College
2020: Walk on at Maryland
2021: Full Scholarship at Maryland
— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) August 15, 2021
These moments never get old.
Maryland football has put walk-on running back Challen Faamatau on scholarship and it was announced by close friend and teammate Taulia Tagovailoa while the team is at the Baltimore Ravens' preseason game.pic.twitter.com/KJlid48pFT
— Wesley Brown (@W_Brown21) August 15, 2021
At Farrington, he was a Star-Advertiser All-State running back who was extremely productive on the ground and as a pass catcher. He had a stint at linebacker when he began playing at the JUCO level. After Pima College, he went to Coffeyville College. Then came the chance to walk on at Maryland in 2020.
“Honestly, just thinking about my journey and what I went through and where I’m at now, I’m blessed to be where I am today. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this without the support of my family and my brothers. It’s a great feeling,” he said.
The dreams and goals are intact.
“Just being able to play at a high level, a Division I collegiate level in one of the top conferences in the nation. It doesn’t stop from here, just keep going. There’s more to come and I tell a lot of people I can only control what I can control. When the opportunity is there, I take advantage of it,” Fa‘amatau said. “I’ve got this year and next year here at Maryland. I still have a dream to play in the NFL, but the most important thing is to get a degree.”
He is majoring in sociology.
“I’m the only person in my family to go to college to get my associate degree and I’ll get my bachelor’s next May, then go into the master’s program. Football’s always going to be there for me, the passion I have,” he said. “Coach (Mike) Locksley will mold you into a person who takes care of business on and off the field. When you leave the University of Maryland, the most important thing is to have a degree. To have a coach preach that every day shows that he cares about our future. One day football will be over.”
Challen Faamatau -> Nick DeGennaro: The connection you never knew you needed.
The walk-on running back does what the Terrapin quarterbacks have been unable to do thus far.
Red team takes the lead, 10-9.pic.twitter.com/ocwMl8MSAo
— Wesley Brown (@W_Brown21) April 24, 2021
Fa‘amatau returns home once a year, but that may off the calendar in 2021-22.
“I come home Christmas, New Year’s, but this year. Don’t plan on going home. I want us to go to a bowl game or Big Ten championship,” he said. “The team we have is a great team, great coaches.”
The daily regimen doesn’t change for Fa‘amatau with or without a scholarship. On Monday, he had just finished a two-hour team meeting and was on dinner break. Another meeting, followed by practice, was to come.
The daily intake of calories doesn’t change either.
“At camp, we have a nutritionist who helps us. I had a ribeye steak, green beans, fruits, a small portion of rice and a side salad. I ate a lot of carbs earlier (in the day). On days off, I don’t eat that many carbs. I have more protein, greens, vegetables and fruits,” he said. “Absolutely, protein shakes. After lifting, it’s mandatory. Smoothies with protein in it, as well, or we get a scolding.”
Breakfast is the same. Plain oatmeal for Fa‘amatau.
Being on scholarship means monthly stipend checks. He never stopped believing in himself, and neither did his closest family and friends.
“My parents. I definitely wouldn’t be here if they weren’t supporting me. My family back home, as well as Auntie Diane and Uncle Galu (Tagovailoa). They hold a special place in my heart and my family’s heart,” Fa‘amatau said. “They pushed me along with my parents and the rest of the people back home who believe in me, and always told me to strive for my goal and continue to work hard.”