Edwards making his mark in Gamecock record book

Before Bryan Edwards was breaking records at South Carolina. Before he was becoming one of the most prolific wide receivers in South Carolina history, Edwards was playing under the lights on Friday nights at Conway High School.

“I remember the middle school coach telling me back years ago that this kid is going to be something special,” said former Conway High School football head coach Chuck Jordan. “And he was.”

Jordan recalls Edwards being a quiet player, letting his pure talent do the talking.

“Bryan was always a very unassuming type kid,” Jordan said. “He never liked drawing any attention to himself but his athleticism in itself drew attention to him.”

Edwards, who saw his senior year cut short due to a knee injury in October of 2015, still was listed as one of the best players in the state out of high school. Edwards finished his prep career with 2,532 yards on 188 receptions to go with 32 touchdowns.

“Bryan started for [Conway] as a freshman, all the way through his senior year,” Jordan said. “He was always on top of his academics. He was special in so many ways.”

As one of the top prospects in the state, Edwards was being looked at by both Clemson and South Carolina.

Current South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was recruiting Bryan Edwards while Muschamp was still at Florida. When Muschamp became the head coach of South Carolina on Dec. 6, 2015, he used that same message that he gave to Edwards when he was recruiting him to come to Gainesville.

Edwards visited both schools and then he verbally committed to the Gamecocks on Dec. 15, 2015.

“It just felt like home,” Edwards said. “The first time I met Coach Muschamp he told [me] that if I came there, I would have an immediate impact and that I would be able to play a big part in the offense.”

And did Edwards ever make an immediate impact his freshman season in 2016. Edwards had the second-best freshman season in South Carolina history behind only Alshon Jeffrey with 44 catches, 590 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

The Gamecocks went 6-7 that season, falling to South Florida in overtime in the Birmingham Bowl.

In 2017, Edwards had to unexpectedly become the top receiver for the Gamecocks after Deebo Samuel suffered a broken leg late in third quarter versus Kentucky.

“The first game following Deebo’s injury was when it really hit me that I was going to be the go-to guy and the guy that everyone leaned on,” Edwards said. “But after that game, it became natural for me because I had been that leader all my life. It was an easy transition.”

Samuel surpassed 1,300 career receiving yards during that 2017 season. He had 64 catches for 793 yards to go with five touchdowns. Edwards helped the Gamecocks to their first bowl win since 2014 that season as the South Carolina defeated Michigan 26-19 in the Outback Bowl. The Gamecocks also saw their first nine-win season since 2013 that year.

“It didn’t surprise me that Bryan was being impactful because he has been impactful everywhere he has been, no matter the situation,” Jordan said.

In his junior season, Edwards continued his stellar performances. Despite having fewer catches than the previous season, Edwards nearly eclipsed 850 receiving yards. In a game versus Chattanooga, Edwards had 69 yards and became only the 10th Gamecock in school history to surpass 2,000 receiving yards.

After already having a storied career, Edwards had the opportunity to go to the NFL with his fellow teammate Deebo Samuel. However, Edwards decided to stay behind for his senior season.

“Bryan made a great decision to return to school this season,” said South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp. “He really has taken advantage of the opportunities that have been laid out in front of him.”

With a six-reception game versus Missouri, Edwards surpassed Alshon Jeffrey for second place in career receptions at South Carolina with 184. In that same game, Edwards surpassed Sterling Sharpe for third in career receiving yards and became only the third player in South Carolina history to have reached 2,500 career receiving yards.

“It’s a great feeling to pass a guy like Alshon, who has done so much here and in the pros,” Edwards said. “I hope that I can get to the top of that list.”

Before this season started, ESPN NFL analyst Mel Kiper had Edwards listed as the second-best wide receiver available in the 2020 NFL Draft.

“Anytime you can get recognition from Mel Kiper, it makes you feel good,” Edwards said. “But at the end of the day, you have to go out there and perform. It’s all about performance for me.”

Should Edwards hear his name called on draft day next April, he will join a star-studded list of not just Palmetto State products, but local kids as well who saw their dreams come true and play in the next level like Hunter Renfrow from Socastee.

Renfrow has played in all four games that the Oakland Raiders have played this season, having multiple receptions in each of the four games he has played in.

“I want anybody, whether they are from Conway, Myrtle Beach or wherever in South Carolina to know that they can do anything,” Edwards said. “Just because you are from a small town doesn’t mean that you can’t accomplish anything.”

One of the grocery list of accomplishments Edwards added to his name happened this past weekend when he tied the record for consecutive games with at least one reception. Edwards has played in 43 games in his South Carolina career. He has made a reception in each of those 43 games. He can break the record set by Kenny McKinley (2005-2008) in the Gamecocks’ next game versus Georgia on Oct. 12.

Another accomplishment that Edwards achieved this past weekend was finally being a part of a South Carolina team that defeated the Kentucky Wildcats breaking a five-year losing streak.

From 2000 to 2013, the Gamecocks were 13-1 versus Kentucky. That lone loss happening in Lexington when Randall Cobb and the Kentucky Wildcats ended a 10-year losing streak to the Gamecocks.

However, since 2014, the Wildcats have found a way to always get the best of South Carolina.

All that changed on Saturday night as South Carolina defeated Kentucky 24-7. Ironically, that was the same score between the Wildcats and the Gamecocks last season, with Kentucky getting the victory.

Before Saturday’s game, Edwards talked about what a win against the Wildcats would mean for him.

“It would be a great feeling to get that win,” Edwards said. “It would be a relief to get that off my back.”

Edwards had six catches for 37 yards in the win over Kentucky this past season.

There are four more home games left in Bryan Edwards career at South Carolina, and yet, he says he still gets goosebumps when he sees the crowd of 80,000 people losing their minds and cheering as Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ blares through the speaker systems of Williams-Brice.

“Anytime you get the chance to play at home in front of your friends, family and the best fans in the country, it’s an amazing feeling,” Edwards said. “I have been coming to these games since I was a freshman in high school and it is a great feeling every time I witness it.”

While Edwards is not necessarily focused on what happens after he hangs up the cleats, he does have aspirations in a life after football.

“I would like to open a business, either open a restaurant or coach football,” Edwards said. “I am not too sure yet. Football has been my main drive for the longest time, but I could definitely see myself in a coaching position.”

With seven games left in the season, Edwards currently needs 18 receptions to become the all-time leader in career receptions at South Carolina, passing Kenny McKinley. He needs five touchdowns to become the career touchdown reception leader in South Carolina history, passing Sidney Rice and Alshon Jeffrey. Both Rice and Jeffrey finished their career with 23 touchdown receptions. Edwards needs 466 receiving yards to finish as the career receiving yards leader, passing Alshon Jeffrey (3,042 career yards) and becoming only the second-ever Gamecock with 3,000-plus career receiving yards.

Edwards plans to graduate this December with a degree in sports and entertainment management.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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