Tech appealed to Edwards for reasons beyond proximity. The excitement and culture that Collins has sought to create were lures. Edwards called it an opportunity that he couldn’t miss out on.
“It was a huge part because I saw what he was doing and you could see the kids they’re bringing in, the culture changing down in Atlanta,” he said. “I’m like, Man, I’m right there in Atlanta’s backyard. I’m from Georgia. I can go be part of that.”
His recruitment process didn’t follow his original plan. Edwards, who was named to the AJC’s all-state team for Class AAAAAA last season as a junior, wanted to make his decision before the start of his senior season, but only after visiting each of the schools he was considering.
However, the recruiting “dead period” that the NCAA instituted in mid-March because of the pandemic – prohibiting in-person recruiting, including campus visits – halted Edwards’ strategy. As the quarantine progressed, he pinned his hopes on the dead period being lifted by the end of June so he could make visits in July. When that fell through – the dead period will extend at least through August – he decided he’d go ahead and decide in June, even without the visits. It’s a route that hundreds of football prospects have made this spring and summer, committing in far larger numbers than previous recruiting cycles.
Edwards said that Tech began recruiting Edwards last November as he led the Falcons to the state semifinals. He received an offer in April, though he said the offer would have been made earlier had he been able to visit Tech as coaches wanted to extend the offer in person. He never got the chance.
He said he has sensed growing excitement about Tech with Collins. He has developed relationships with defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker and safeties coach Nathan Burton.
“He fell in love with the coaching staff,” Craig Edwards said. “Coach Thacker and coach Burton did an excellent job.”
Edwards also heard plenty from two players who had already committed to Tech for 2021, Jamal Haynes and Noah Collins from Grayson High. Edwards had known them from playing against them in the Gwinnett youth football league.
“All they told me was something special is happening, and I started to see that for myself,” Edwards said.
Edwards picked Tech over Duke, Louisville and Notre Dame. Remarkably, Louisville was the only school of the three that Edwards was able to visit. He had also received offers from Stanford, Northwestern and Virginia among others. Edwards’ father, an assistant football coach and teacher at Dacula, recalls his son telling him and his wife, Rashunda, that he had decided on Tech because it had everything he wanted. After deciding in mid-June, he waited until last week, when he was with extended family, to make the decision public.
“It was never about accruing all the offers that he could get,” Craig said. “It was about getting the right offer.”
In a development sure to tickle die-hard followers of Tech’s recruiting, Edwards was upgraded from a three-star to a four-star prospect (247Sports Composite) on Tuesday. Collins now has two four-star prospects committed for 2021, Edwards and wide receiver James BlackStrain from Melbourne, Fla.
Edwards possesses an uncommon skill set. While primarily a safety, he also plays slot receiver and running back and last year was even the Falcons’ backup quarterback. He was named offensive player of the year by the Gwinnett Daily Post.
“He was pretty much always on the field,” Craig said.
Edwards, listed at 6-foot-0 and 195 pounds, said Tech coaches shared with him Collins’ embrace of using players at different positions, even playing offense and defense. The thought of continuing as a two-way player appeals to him. Playing quarterback before high school, he said, helped him learn to play safety. Beyond that, he can high jump 6-4, which tied him for third in the 2019 state meet.
“I love (being a two-way player),” Edwards said. “I think a lot of guys should think about playing both ways. It gives you a more in-depth perspective on the game.”
The holder of a 3.7 GPA, Edwards plans to graduate in December and enroll at Tech in January.
“He made a great choice, a great decision against some really top schools like Duke and Stanford and Notre Dame that he was really considering,” Craig Edwards said. “But you can’t beat Georgia Tech or the academics and the level of football that he’ll get to play.”