Sac State will be keeping a watchful eye on No. 11 this Saturday after Eagle wide receiver finished with four touchdowns, 11 catches and 192 yards receiving a year ago
By Fedor Gaponenko, EWU Sports Information
Eastern Washington University wide receiver Nicholas Edwards isn’t a surprise anymore.
After seeing how his career has played out for the Eagles, it’s hard to believe that coming out of high school the consensus 2011 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision All-American didn’t receive a single scholarship offer.
In 2008, he was just a walk-on out of Foss High School in Tacoma, Wash., trying to prove to Eastern coaches that he belongs on the team. Fast forward four years later, and he has a national championship ring and will go down as one of the greatest receivers in Eastern history. Entering this Saturday’s showdown versus 5-2 Sacramento State, he is second all-time in school history with 29 touchdown receptions, to go along with totals of 186 catches (fourth) and 2,328 receiving yards (eighth).
Last year, Edwards had a school-record 19 touchdown catches, including four against the Hornets in a 42-35 overtime victory in Sacramento. He finished that game with career highs of 11 catches for 192 yards on his way to a 95-catch season for 1,250 yards.
Since he made his playing debut for the Eagles in 2009, Edwards has been a model of consistency, starting in 40 of the 41 games he has played. Even more impressive is his ability to come up clutch in big moments. During EWU’s run to the 2010 NCAA Division I title, Edwards had touchdowns in all four playoff games, with a total of five scores.
This season Edwards has yet to catch a touchdown, but the team is off to a quick start, ranking No. 1 in FCS with a 5-1 record overall and 4-0 mark in the Big Sky Conference. On Sept. 22, Edwards injured his knee on the first play of the game versus Weber State, forcing him to miss the next two games. He had played in every Eastern game until then, snapping his streak at 41 consecutive games.
In his absence, other Eastern receivers have stepped up. Although Edwards made his return last week versus Montana State, he only had one reception for six yards. But the 27-24 win over the second-ranked Bobcats more than made up for the limited grabs.
This Saturday, he’ll get yet another chance to increase his career numbers – although nothing he does is a surprise anymore.
Is there a chance we’re going to see a vintage Nicholas Edwards performance this weekend versus Sacramento State?
“Absolutely, that’s the plan. The plan is to get the W, and I’m excited to play and be successful.”
I’m sure you remember getting four touchdowns, 11 catches and 192 yards last year against them. How did you catch fire a year ago? Did you and Bo (Levi Mitchell) find a hole in the defense you took advantage of?
“We kept talking throughout the game about what coverage we were seeing, and late in the game we started hitting the spots. And we just started rolling after that.”
You have been fortunate to not miss a lot of games due to injury most of your career. What was it like having to be on the sidelines in the dramatic win over Montana and the rout of North Dakota?
“It was tough missing my first game ever. It was a humbling experience for me and it got me looking at the bigger picture. We had other guys step up like Ashton Clark, Cory Mitchell and Shaquille Hill, so it was helpful for the team.”
How is your knee feeling now?
“My knee feels great.”
You’re second all-time in school history in touchdown receptions with 29, and have the EWU record for single season touchdowns with 19. It’s safe to call you an Eagle great. Why do you think your talent slipped by every school in the nation so that Eastern was your only offer as a walk-on?
“I’m not sure -- I have no idea actually. I’m fortunate it all worked with God’s plan for me to land here with these great people, great staff and great teammates. I’m so glad to be playing here.”
Speaking of the 19 touchdowns last year, how cool is it to own a school record that will probably stick around for a while?
“It feels good knowing I’m an Eagle for life. I’m proud to have that record because deep down in my heart I want to be an Eagle.”
I know that being a walk-on was a chip on your shoulder, how did it impact you as a player to have to go through the extra adversity?
“It kept me motivated. Every day when I wake up knowing that nobody wanted me besides Eastern, it makes me work harder. I’m proud of being a walk-on because it made me hungrier each day.”
In the 2010 Championship run you were a key cog, catching a TD in every single playoff game. Is performing in big moments like that something you put an extra emphasis on?
“Absolutely. I know if I can take care of my personal goals I’m going to be helping out the team to win. Each week I study the opponent to see ways I can help the team.”
This season the team has had a brilliant start and is currently ranked first in the nation. Are you guys feeling another championship run is in store?
“That’s what our goal is each year -- to win a national championship. Last year was a letdown for us. We come into each season with the mindset that we are going to win a national championship, and that’s our goal this season.”
After playing two years with Bo, you’re now catching passes from Vernon Adams and before that, Kyle Padron. How are you and the other receivers adjusting to your new quarterbacks?
“We’re fine. We’re veterans as a receiver corp and it doesn’t matter who’s throwing us the ball. We’re going to get the job done and get the W.”
What’s next for you after you finish playing football at EWU?
“I hope that I can play in the NFL and have a long career there. If not, I’m going to be a college coach or a high school coach when I’m done.”
Outside of football what are some of your other passions and interests?
“I’m a big fan of the NFL Madden game. I play Madden and NBA 2K13. I’m also a big film junkie.”
Who is that one person who made the biggest difference in your life?
“My wife Macca Diaz did. She’s been there since I was 16. We’ve had a whole bunch of highs and a whole bunch of lows, but she always stuck with me.”
What else would you like to say to all the fans reading this?
“Be at each and every game because we’re going to put on a show.”