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Posted: January 3, 2017 1:35 p.m.

Alcovy alum and Duke graduate Devon Edwards is ready for shot at the NFL after injury

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Former Alcovy star Devon Edwards finished his career at Duke one kickoff return touchdown away from posting a new NCAA career record. Edwards' suffered a season ending injury against Notre Dame in Week 4 of the season.

Devon Edwards looked sharp as he stood to give his speech during the Duke Blue Devils’ 2016 team banquet.

The Alcovy High School, and now Duke University graduate, stood confidently, at times with a wry smile on his face, as he expressed sentiments on what his last four years as a Blue Devil meant to him.

To see the strength and pride on his countenance as he recounted his senior year might cause one to think Edwards was celebrating a 2016 season full of football success.

Not so.

A kick return in the first quarter of Duke’s game at Notre Dame – just four games into the season – put a quick and cruel halt to any possibilities of that.

On what started off as a routine looking play, Edwards would make a cut up the middle to find running room, only to find himself crumpling into a heap on the South Bend, Ind. turf.

Edwards had a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus. Just like that, his very promising senior season was over.

“Initially, it felt unreal,” Edwards said. “I remember laying there thinking, ‘What did I just do?’ Something like that doesn’t really hit you at first.It takes a while for it to sink in. I was fine until the team went out to play without me. That’s when it sank in that on that play I had finished my season and was done with college football period.”

It threatened to not only derail his NFL plans, but also his overall psyche. The 5-foot-9, 180 pound Covington native was considered a pre-season All-American as a kick returner. In 2015 he returned 24 kickoffs for 700 yards and three touchdowns, setting a single season school mark for kickoff return average in the process.

He shifted from safety to cornerback, and was expected to be a season long starter. He also had his eye on breaking both the NCAA and ACC career records for kickoff return touchdowns. The injury guaranteed that he’d remain just one touchdown away from that mark.

But Edwards said that although he had plenty of reasons to sink into a football depression, something shifted in him and brought him joy again.

“I got a lot of guys on that team that bring me a lot of encouragement,” Edwards said. “They helped me through the process. My family, my mom and my girlfriend were all around me during that time. They set a really good atmosphere and helped me to bounce back strong.”

The bounce back first took place in the classroom, where Edwards maintained 3.34 undergraduate grade point average and a 3.36 graduate mark as he pursues a master’s degree in liberal studies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with certificate in markets and management.

His accomplishments granted him the distinction of being one of just 12 National Football Foundation National Scholar Athlete Award winners in November, complete with a trip to New York City to receive the award.

But it was during the team banquet when Edwards really got the chance to sound off about the mindset shift that happened as he recovered from injury.

“My senior year did not go as planned,” Edwards said during his speech. “My knee injury was a blessing. I’ve learned to become a better teammate. I have no regrets. The things you learn in the classroom and on the field are overcoming adversity, facing challenges and competing. That’s life.”

That time addressing his teammates, was just another opportunity for Edwards to preach what his injury forced him to practice.

“The award and everything was great to win,” Edwards said. “It was not only just for being an athlete, but in the classroom and community. It was a tough season. We didn’t do very well this year as a team, and I wasn’t walking much this season. But all of this reminded me that life’s not all about football.”

Duke coach David Cuttcliffe alluded to the fact that Edwards had definitely learned that lesson.

“I was so thrilled to hear (of Edwards’ NFF Scholar Athlete award),” said Cutcliffe during a November press conference. “That award is about what kind of player you are and what kind of student you are and what kind of person you are. When you have a season ending injury and still get that award, it lets you know the kind of things people say you are.”

But Edwards will quickly tell you that he’s not done with football. He said he’s been rehabbing after surgery and working out religiously. Other than working to finish a thesis project for his master’s degree, he has had a one-track mind revolved around preparing for Duke’s Pro Day and getting ready to try for a spot on an NFL team’s roster.

“I remember going to Alcovy and it was a new school then, and people were saying I’m not gonna get a scholarship, and this and that,” Edwards said. “But I remember thinking the sky was the limit to what I can do. That was my motivation to get where I am out of high school despite the odds and adversity. And now I’m going to make the most out of this opportunity to get to the pros and do that same thing again.”

Perhaps Edwards gave his best thesis statement toward his success goals near the end of his team banquet speech.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “In the near future, you’ll see me playing on Sundays, or sitting behind a desk, building my own franchise.”

  

 

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