When the Virginia Preps website unveiled its Group AA preseason all-state football first team earlier this week, Poquoson High offensive lineman Dustin Edwards was on it. How could he not be?
Virginia Preps, the Associated Press and state coaches each named Edwards to their all-state first teams in 2010, when he helped Poquoson win its first state championship in school history. He spearheaded a rushing attack that averaged more than 280 yards with a combination of smarts, quickness, strength and hard-hitting nastiness unmatched in the Bay Rivers District.
You'd think such attributes and accolades would send college recruiters flocking to Poquoson. They haven't.
Edwards has only four letters and no offers or serious interest from Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) schools. The big boys (I-A) aren't even giving him a sniff, something less-decorated but bigger district linemen are at least getting.
And therein lies the rub. Colleges above the Division II and III levels apparently consider Edwards — at 6-foot-1/2 inch, 265 pounds — simply too short to be an offensive line recruit.
"You'd think with all of the all-state (recognition) there would be quite a few schools coming after you," Edwards said. "But they're not and it's very frustrating.
"I think I meet most of the criteria for a Division I lineman: I'm big, I'm fast, I'm strong and I'm football smart. But a lot of times it comes down to size."
Poquoson coach Elliott Duty said, "I think it comes down to those two or three inches of height he doesn't have. It's definitely not the way he plays on tape."
Nor is it all of those other tangible measurements collegiate coaches are looking for in a lineman. His 540-pound squat is extraordinary, and key at a position where lower body strength is crucial.
His 4.4 shuttle is very good too, evidence of the kind of, explosiveness, quick feet and lateral quickness needed to pull or pick up a blitzing linebacker. His upper body strength measurements — a 315-pound bench and 250-pound power clean — ain't bad either.
And then there are the intangibles, where folks around the Poquoson program rate Edwards among the highest ever to put on a maroon and gold uniform. One, surprising because Edwards is invariably polite off of the field, is his meanness.
"Dustin loves to be physical," Duty said. "He loves to pull and trap and just maul people."
Teammate Nate Rhea said, "You've got to be mean to play on the line and he fits that perfectly."
Edwards won't deny that he loves contact, calling the feeling of watching an opponent fly through the air after a block last season as "indescribable."
"I play with so much passion, I get kind of crazy to be honest," he said. "Once I get the pads on I'm a different person, but it's that passion that makes you a much better player.
"One of the things I love about football is nailing people."
Duty said that Edwards is one of the two hardest-working players he's seen in nearly two decades at Poquoson, and one of the three most intelligent linemen he's ever coached.
"His family went to Nags Head last year and had to get him a membership at the YMCA there for the week so he could work out," Duty said. "Otherwise he wouldn't have gone.
"He's very football smart and that enables him to make adjustments on the fly."
But he's not 6-4 or 6-5, so he may not get that opportunity on a Division I offensive line. But there is hope.
He visited FCS Campbell University recently and, Duty said, the school liked him more as a defensive line prospect. Edwards played as a reserve on the defensive line a year ago, but is penciled into the Islanders depth chart as a full-time two-way lineman for this season.
The possibility of playing defensive line on the I-AA level intrigues him.
"If I have offers, I'll make the move," he said. "I love defense and I think I'd be pretty effective at it.
"A defensive lineman has to be quick off the ball and run laterally to get to running backs and quarterbacks. I think I'd be good at rushing the passer or stopping the run.
"My dream is to play Division I-A or I-AA and position doesn't matter. There are a lot of 6-1 defensive linemen on the I-AA level."
So Edwards hopes that by season's end he'll have plenty of defensive video to boost his college prospects. But now that defending Division 3 state champion Poquoson is practicing, that's on the back burner.
"I'll think about the recruiting stuff a little bit, but now that the season has started my mind is on winning games for Poquoson High School," he said. "My big concern is about making the team better every day."