Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School football coach Josh Singer was talking to college coaches during the offseason about senior running back/linebacker Nana Amankwah-Ayeh’s game film.
“Everybody likes what they see,” Singer said. “And then they look at his numbers.”
The college coaches couldn’t believe Amankwah-Ayeh is so short (5-foot-11), so small (205 pounds) and so slow (4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash last spring, according Amankwah-Ayeh), because he plays much bigger on the field.
“He just has a natural vision for where the football is going to go, whether it’s in his hands or he’s on defense,” Singer said. “And he can sometimes take routes that other guys wouldn’t be able to take, because he just sees it so quickly.”
At the high school level, Amankwah-Ayeh’s size is no issue. He led Bethesda-Chevy Chase in tackles last season, and he’s leading the team in rushing this year.
At the college level, it might hold him back, but several teams have indicated a willingness to overlook Amankwah-Ayeh’s less-than-ideal measurables. Towson University, University of Delaware, James Madison University, Princeton University, Brown University and Harvard University have shown interest, though none have made an offer.
“If I play hard, I’ll get a scholarship — I don’t really think about that,” Amankwah-Ayeh said. “It’s not something I really try to beat myself up about. Just play hard, it will come to me one day.”
Amankwah-Ayeh admits he didn’t play particularly hard as a freshman. His effort improved as a sophomore, but he realized moderate gains weren’t enough.
“I told myself, ‘You need to step your game up if you want to take football where you want to take it and not just let your dreams float away,’” Amankwah-Ayeh said.
He dedicated himself to lifting weights and studying film in a bid to become a legitimate college prospect, and he became a starter as a junior. Now, Singer called Amankwah-Ayeh the team’s “heart and soul” and credited him with “creating a lot of positive energy.”
But Amankwah-Ayeh says he takes losses especially hard. He isolates himself from his family — which dubbed him Nana, a common nickname for Ghanese children, so long ago that it has essentially replaced his first name of Yaw — and broods in his room.
Unfortunately for Amankwah-Ayeh, Bethesda-Chevy Chase has lost the past two weeks, falling to Walt Whitman and Thomas S. Wootton.
Amankwah-Ayeh will have an opportunity to help Bethesda-Chevy Chase right the ship Friday at Seneca Valley, and he said he’ll do it with the mindset that impressed those college coaches.
“The next time I go out there to play football could be my last play ever,” Amankwah-Ayeh said. “So, I just want treat it like it’s my last.”