Duke’s Edwards One to Remember and Watch
By BJ Bennett
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Chances will come for DeVon Edwards following a truly distinguished college football career.
During an All-American career at Duke, DeVon Edwards was a dynamic difference-maker. He, as one of the best players in the country at three different positions, recorded 328 career total tackles, 23 passes defended, 13 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, five interceptions and a remarkable six kickoff returns for touchdown. Few in the game were as versatile or more impactful.
By multiple measures, Edwards has a very real place in history. As a hybrid safety, his 133 stops in 2014 are the most-ever by a league defensive back. As a kick returner, Edwards' half-dozen career scores, three touchdowns in 2015 and 27.9 yards per attempt all rank second in the conference all-time; his six kickoff returns for touchdown are the second-most in NCAA history. Edwards slots in the top 15 in tackles and the top 10 kickoff return yards in the ACC record books, especially remarkable considering he played just three full games as a senior.
Both on defense and on special teams, Edwards has the ability to break a contest wide open. As a redshirt freshman, he became the second college football player ever to score on interception returns for touchdown on consecutive snaps and the first player in a decade to score three non-offensive touchdowns in the same game; Edwards reached the endzone on a 100-yard kickoff return, a 25-yard interception return and a 45-yard interception return in a win over NC State, adding ten tackles and a pass break-up for good measure.
"I just want to be a game-changer, someone that brings something to the table, I don't like just to be out there," Edwards explained on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. "Every time I played I had a chip on my shoulder, like 'why are you out here? Make a reason'. I usually carry that with every chance I get with an opportunity to get the ball, play defense or return a kick."
Edwards, for the Blue Devils, was often at his best on the big stage. In 2013, he led Duke's clinching of the ACC Coastal Division title, and corresponding berth in the ACC Championship Game, with a 99-yard kickoff return for touchdown and the game-ending interception in a 27-25 triumph over rival North Carolina. The Blue Devils went on to face eventual national champion Florida State in Charlotte and, later, Texas A&M in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
More than just changing games, Edwards helped changed the culture in Durham. In his three full seasons, Duke won 27 total games, including a program-record ten his redshirt freshman year. The Blue Devils, with Edwards garnering national acclaim, peaked inside the national top 20 in 2013 and 2014. Duke, additionally, made three consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history
The ACC Championship Game offered validation for a young player and an evolving program on the rise. With that trip, the Blue Devils both broke the mold and set a new internal standard.
"As soon as we won the Coastal Division and went to the ACC Championship, that year the expectations really changed a lot and people expected us to continue to succeed in the postseason and win and compete against other teams in the ACC," Edwards continued.
Competing for a league title still stands as a memorable moment for Edwards.
"It was like a dream come true," he nodded.
One of the great tenures in recent conference history came to an unfortunate end with a late-September knee injury at Notre Dame, an outing Duke won 38-35. Edwards, early in the Blue Devils' fourth game of the year, suffered a torn ACL and MCL against the Fighting Irish. He has since had surgery and is recovering well.
Edwards is now focused and on-schedule as he is preparing for upcoming auditions for the next level. The same mindset that made him one of college football's top talents is now helping Edwards push through some unforeseen adversity.
"The rehab is going great," Edwards stated. "Ever since the surgery, I have been working out and doing stuff for my pro day and trying to get myself together, but also being patient at the same time."
A Georgia-native, Edwards came east with specific goals in mind. His accomplishments have been multi-faceted; Edwards, as a sophomore, was one of five players nationally to earn All-American and Academic All-American honors. A recent finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy recognizing academic success, football performance and community leadership, Edwards was a four-time Academic All-ACC team member in the classroom and a three-time all-league performer on the field.
Edwards, as a senior, was a team captain, a tried-and-true leader of his peers.
"It was great. Playing with guys that you grow with," Edwards detailed of his college experience. "You come to Duke for the same reasons, to elevate the program and become a better person."
Looking ahead, Edwards has abilities that professional scouts crave: speed and elusiveness, leadership and persistence. His special teams prowess only boosts an already-notable draft profile. Above all else, with Edwards, is a perspective that, while often prominent in the box score, always defines who he is.
"I try to make the most of every situation and try to make a difference someway, somehow," he added.
Chances will come for Edwards following a truly distinguished college football career. Expect him to continue to make the most of any and all opportunities he gets.