DeVon Edwards goes from unknown to elite

July, 10, 2014
7/10/14
10:30
AM ET
David Cutcliffe placed the call while he was on the treadmill. DeVon Edwards tried to play it cool when Cutcliffe offered him a scholarship, asking whether he could talk with his mom first.

But the truth is, Edwards knew all along what he would say. Five minutes later, Edwards accepted the only scholarship offer that came his way.

[+] EnlargeDeVon Edwards
Peter Casey/USA TODAY SportsDuke return man DeVon Edwards joined the track team to help improve his speed for the 2014 season.
Incredible now to believe only one school believed in him. Edwards is going into his sophomore season at Duke as one of the top kick returners in the country.

So how did he get virtually no interest in high school?

Edwards played at a relatively new school in Covington, Georgia, that opened in 2006. Nobody from that school had ever received a football scholarship to an FBS program. So the school itself was off the map. And so was Edwards, after a broken collarbone sidelined him for his junior season.

His high school coaches sent out game tape from his sophomore season, but nobody seemed interested. With no interest and no offers, Edwards began to face reality. He turned his focus to basketball, where he played on AAU teams and was an all-region selection for his school.

If nobody wanted him as a football player, maybe they would as a basketball player.

"It was a tough feeling, not knowing if you were going to get to play at the next level and then your friends were getting scholarships," Edwards recalled recently. "I figured I was not doing something right, maybe I was too small or too short or something. I had a high GPA, so I knew I could get into college but playing football was something I like doing and I was just starting to cope with the fact that I might not get a scholarship."

Enter Cutcliffe. He saw something in Edwards in those old game tapes. He asked for senior year game tape. At this point, the football season was over. But Edwards was playing basketball. Cutcliffe took a trip to see him during practice.

He was sold, and offered Edwards in December -- just two months before signing day.

"I guess God just told me I need to play football," Edwards said.

Edwards came into Duke with little fanfare. He was the only player in the class of 2012 without any stars or ranking from ESPN Recruiting. Edwards redshirted his first season, then went into fall camp last year hoping for playing time at cornerback. But he was moved to safety and admitted frustration over his undetermined role.

With the help of former star Duke CB Ross Cockrell, Edwards tried to look ahead, waiting for his shot. It came on defense and special teams around the same time.

Cutcliffe had always promised Edwards a chance to return kicks. It happened after Johnell Barnes broke his hand in late September. Edwards started at kick returner in the sixth game of the season, against Navy, and held on to the role the rest of the season. He also started the final seven games of the season at safety.

Edwards started to make a name for himself soon enough. He ended up returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and two interceptions for touchdowns. Three of those scores came against NC State (two INT returns and a 100-yard kickoff return).

"It didn’t hit me how well we played until the next morning when I was watching 'SportsCenter' and people kept talking about it and I was like, 'Wow, that was a big deal,'" Edwards said.

He ended the season ranked No. 3 in the nation in kickoff return average (30.2 yards per return) and was one of seven players to return multiple kickoffs for touchdowns. Edwards has worked on his speed this offseason in order to get better, and joined the track team for the outdoor season with several other football players. Edwards says he is a much better runner now than he was when spring football ended.

That will only help him build off his impressive first season. After all, he's no longer an unknown.

"I’m going to keep playing how I was playing and keep on working hard. I knew who I was when nobody else knew who I was," Edwards said.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.