CASSILO: Edwards’ accolades rank best ever

David Cassilo

Armanti Edwards has done it again. Facing off against the powerful offense of the Richmond Spiders, he knew he had to turn in another tremendous performance to lead his Appalachian State Mountaineers back to the title game for the third year in a row. He took the team on his shoulders and set an FCS single-game rushing record, finishing with 313 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries. However, it could never be considered the greatest performance ever by a running back.

That is only because Edwards is the team’s quarterback, and his rushing numbers are only half the story.

That day he also managed to find the time to throw for 192 yards and three touchdowns. While it may be the best performance in Edwards’ career to date, one cannot be too shocked when the best player in all of college football has a day like this.

Formerly a wide receiver, Edwards did not play quarterback full-time until his senior year at Greenwood High School in South Carolina. It seemed to be a decision that was long overdue, as in his first full season, he threw for over 2,000 yards, rushed for over 1,000 yards and amassed 29 touchdowns. While the numbers were truly eye-popping, it was hard to attract many college football scouts since the switch to quarterback occurred so late in the recruiting process. He drew interest from some FBS schools, including Georgia and Clemson, but Edwards decided on Appalachian State because it allowed him to begin his college career as a quarterback.

The faith that Appalachian State Head Coach Jerry Moore had in Edwards’ abilities paid immediate dividends for his team. In his freshman year, Edwards was not initially relied on to lead Appalachian State back to the FCS title game, where it had won a year before. However, by the third game, Edwards found his way under center and did not disappoint. He finished his first season with 2,251 passing yards, 1,153 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns. Perhaps even more impressively, he did not lose a game as a starter and delivered another championship to Appalachian State when it defeated Massachusetts 28-17.

Despite tremendous numbers, Edwards did not gain national recognition with the college football fan until the first game of his sophomore season. In one of the biggest upsets in college football history, Edwards took the Mountaineers into Ann Arbor, Mich., and defeated the No. 5-ranked Michigan Wolverines 34-32. It was the first time an FCS team had ever beaten a ranked FBS team. Edwards was the catalyst in the mammoth victory, as he threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns while also scoring another touchdown on the ground to go along with 61 rushing yards. He did this all on a bad shoulder that would force him to miss the next two games.

Although it seemed nearly impossible to provide anything more spectacular than the win over Michigan, Edwards did his best, totaling 1,948 passing yards, 1,588 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns during his sophomore season. It is a scary thought that these numbers are just a sample of what could have been, as Edwards missed four-and-a-half games that season.

During his sophomore season, he put together four consecutive legendary postseason performances, including the epic game against Richmond. During the ’07 postseason, he amassed 1,387 total yards and 16 touchdowns. The end result was the same, as his freshman season as he once again led Appalachian State to a win in the title game, this time defeating Delaware 49-21.

Still rather anonymous to many college football fans, Edwards developed his game even further during this current season. Thus far, Edwards has thrown for 2,579 yards, 29 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The numbers leave him with an astronomical quarterback rating of 126.3. He also has once again excelled rushing the ball with 938 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Without a doubt, Edwards has put together numbers that are as good as any player to ever play college football. He has already won two national titles. His record is 31-4 as a starter for Appalachian State. He has surpassed 10,000 career yards of total offense. Before Edwards, only four players in the history of college football had thrown for 2,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards in the same season. With 62 more rushing yards, Edwards will have done it twice and would have done it a third if he did not miss four-and-a-half games during his sophomore year.

Those numbers barely scratch the surface of all the records he has achieved during his career. As amazing as they are, his name gets left out of almost every Heisman Trophy conversation. Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow are all having outstanding seasons, but no one in the history of college football – let alone those three – has done what Edwards has. He is, without question, the best player this year in college football, and when all is said and done, he may be the best ever.

While the Heisman is one trophy that may unfairly elude him during his college career, another national title may be right around the corner. In Appalachian State’s first playoff game this past weekend against South Carolina State, Edwards threw for 433 yards – a new career-high.

He is doing the impossible for someone who has already accomplished so much – he is getting better game-by-game. Now just three wins away from a third consecutive FCS National Championship, there is only one question remaining to be answered about Edwards’ college career: Will America wake up in time to witness the greatest college football player of this generation? Just because the Heisman voters will not doesn’t mean you don’t have to.

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David Cassilo is a junior communication major from Chatham, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]