Prosecutors say Etute told cops he punched the victim several times in the face and also stomped on him.
Prosecutors say Etute added that he did not call cops after the attack, despite hearing "bubbling and gurgling" as he left the apartment.
The man was found dead two days later ... with officials saying he had missing teeth and broken bones in his face and skull.
But, Etute's attorney, Jimmy Turk, appeared to defend the football player's alleged actions ... saying in court, "Nobody deserves to die, but I don’t mind saying, don’t pretend you are something that you are not."
"Don’t target or lure anyone under that perception. That’s just wrong."
Etute -- who's been charged with 2nd-degree murder -- was granted bail at the hearing and is due back in court in September.
The linebacker, meanwhile, had participated in Va. Tech's 2021 spring practices and was expected to compete for a role on the team this year ... but he's since been barred from the team as the case plays out in court.