Darron Edwards has been through his fair share of highs and lows since graduating from Dunbar in 2006.
An explosive guard for the Poets' basketball team and an All-Metro football player who set single-season state records for touchdown catches (18) and receiving yards (1,257), Edwards has spent three long years working toward a Division I scholarship.
Late last week that hard work paid off for Edwards. The 5-foot-11, 173-pound cornerback from Butler County Community College in El Dorado, Kan., committed to Arkansas State. He chose the Red Wolves over Houston, Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas, South Florida and a host of Football Championship Subdivision programs.
"Basically, I was their No. 1 corner and I felt comfortable as far as my major," said Edwards, a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com. "They have [one of the top] communications schools in the country. I see myself coming in and playing right away, and that's really what I was focused on."Coming out of Dunbar, Edwards had planned to play football and basketball at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy. School officials, however, thought he would have a better chance at meeting NCAA qualifying standards by going to a junior college. Butler came highly recommended, so Edwards made the journey from East Baltimore to south central Kansas.
"Butler was rough, but it's a program that made me a little more focused and dedicated to the game," Edwards said. "I'm still a city boy, but it's easy to adjust [to living in a small town] now."
Edwards gave up basketball and generated plenty of Division I interest on the gridiron playing for a nationally recognized, junior college powerhouse. Before he had a chance to really dive into the recruiting process, however, his sophomore season ended prematurely.
"It was the first game of 2008 and we played in front of 13,000 people and one of the biggest JUCO crowds ever," Edwards said. "I was returning a punt and one of my guys missed a block. I wasn't going to fair-catch it or nothing, so the guy hit my leg and I tore my ACL and stretched my LCL. So I had to get two surgeries on that."
Edwards redshirted and took an official visit to Maryland later that fall. Shortly after his trip to College Park, the coaches told him "they weren't going to pull the trigger" on a scholarship offer. That meant Edwards would have to return to Butler for a third year.
Edwards said the disappointment of not getting a Maryland offer taught him that football is "a business on that level." But returning to Butler for a third year proved beneficial to his development as a player. Starting at cornerback for the Grizzlies, Edwards recorded 43 tackles, four interceptions and 19 pass breakups. He hopes to make a similarly significant impact as a junior at Arkansas State.
"A lot of my teammates chose to go to bigger schools because of the name," Edwards said. "Coming from a junior college, if they don't play their [last] two years, then what's the point? I just want to go to a place where I can finish out my time, get my degree and play. I didn't want to go someplace where I would be the third corner when I only have two years left. ... [The Arkansas State coaches] treated me like I'm the top [recruit] at the position. That's what it came down to."
Edwards has finished his associate's degree and will enroll at Arkansas State in January. He'll start his Division I career next fall, which will coincide with the beginning of younger brother Derrell Edwards' freshman season on the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi basketball team. Needless to say, there will be plenty to celebrate around the Edwards household this weekend.
"It means a lot to me. I'm doing it for him, for real," Edwards said. "I love the game, but in my family, I'm the first one [to go to college]. [Derrell] looks up to me. If I had been in the streets, he would have been in the streets. He sees what I'm doing and I see what he's doing. He just signed with a DI school, so I'm proud of him and he's proud of me. That's my heart -- I'd do it all for my little brother."