Longtime Downers Grove North football coach John Wander remembers the moment well.
Shortly after the 2012 season came to an end, a tall, well-built freshman walked into his office and said: “Hey, coach. I think I can play quarterback.”
Wander was hardly surprised at Dave Edwards’ proclamation. After all, two of Edwards’ cousins played QB for the Trojans from 2002-05.
So Wander said, “Sure kid. Let’s give it a shot.”
Now, almost a decade later, Wander and the rest of the Downers Grove North community can’t wait to see if Edwards can help lead the Los Angeles Rams to victory over Cincinnati in Super Bowl LVI Feb. 13.
Edwards, of course, isn’t the Rams’ quarterback. He is, however, providing pass protection for veteran Matthew Stafford as well as paving the way for running backs Cam Akers and Sony Michel. Next to him at center is Brian Allen, a 2014 graduate of Hinsdale Central.
If Edwards’ journey to the pros isn’t unique, it’s certainly extremely rare.
“I see a lot of quarterbacks become linebackers or DBs,” said Wander, who began coaching at DGN as an assistant in 1985 and was head coach from 2002-17. “But very seldom do you see one become a right tackle in college (then) a left guard in the NFL.”
Edwards quarterbacked Downers North for three seasons. At 6-foot-6, 235 pounds he was a great fit for Wander’s option offense.
“He’s got a great nose for the game and is a tough kid,” Wander said. “We always said if we got a 1-yard push and Dave fell down it would be 4 yards. We could do that the entire game.”
The Trojans lost in the state quarterfinals two years in a row – on the last play against Benet in 2013 and 7-0 to Mt. Carmel in 2014.
Wisconsin recruited Edwards to play tight end, but he kept getting bigger and stronger so the Badgers’ coaching staff decided another position change was necessary.
“Once I started getting the nutrition and food at Wisconsin I just kind of blew up,” said Edwards, who now checks in at 308 pounds. “Once I got to 270 I got a text from the tight ends coach, ‘Hey, after class come swing by my office.’
“I knew right then and there I was getting moved (to the offensive line).”
Which was completely fine with Edwards, who would go wherever a coaching staff thought he could help most.
“I never really cared which position I played, whether I was QB, tight end, O-line,” Edwards said. “I felt like that was the best for the team and the best thing for myself, so I was never upset about the transition.”
The Badgers went 13-1 and won the Orange Bowl in 2017, then went 8-5 the next season. When he was a redshirt sophomore Edwards remembers a conversation with a coach that made him believe the NFL was a real possibility. That was the moment the NFL went from unreachable fantasy to a real possibility in Edwards’ mind.
After the 2018 season Edwards decided to forego his final season of eligibility and declared for the draft. The Rams selected him in the fifth round in 2019 and he’s been a staple on their offensive line for 2.5 seasons.
Edwards and Allen grew up five miles apart and went toe to toe against each other twice in high school. The Red Devils got the best of the Trojans both times, meaning Allen and his teammates were able to retain the Old Oaken Bucket. The bucket, which shows each year’s results with copper strips, dates back to 1935.
Edwards got his revenge when they met in college, though, with Wisconsin defeating Michigan State 30-6 in 2016.
“Every week we joke that this is the first time in NFL history that two West Suburban Silver guys are playing next to each other and playing in the NFC title game,” Edwards said. “We talk about it a lot.
“I hang the Wisconsin win over his head and he hangs the Oaken Bucket over mine. We have some fun giving each other jabs.”
Edwards and Allen only got to know each other a little bit in college, but as teammates they’ve become fast friends. Allen immediately reached out to Edwards after he was drafted, and has always been available to answer questions. Edwards — and the rest of the Rams — also can’t get enough of Allen’s gut-busting humor.
“He’s really witty,” Edwards said. “When he has a good one-liner, everyone starts dying laughing. … I love that dude. He’s a great guy and a great teammate.”
While Wander and his son were at Raymond James Stadium for the Rams’ victory over Tampa Bay in the NFC Divisional playoff game, Dave Edwards Sr. was in his Downers Grove basement. Dad’s thinking is simple: Better to watch from the comforts of home than in a nosebleed seat doled out by the home team.
The Rams led 27-3 midway through the third quarter, but Tom Brady took advantage of a slew of turnovers and Tampa Bay made it 27-27 on a 9-yard run by Leonard Fournette with 42 seconds remaining.
Suddenly, Edwards Sr. said he was crossing his arms, something he’s done for decades under nerve-racking circumstances. Wander and his son were aghast watching the scene unfold before them.
As for Edwards? He had no doubt this game was not going to overtime.
“(Coach) Sean (McVay) walked up and down the sideline with us, saying, ‘We’re gonna score,’” Edwards said. “Anytime your leader and head coach/play caller makes a statement like that and he truly believes it, that’s powerful stuff.”
After Stafford was sacked, he hit Kupp for a 20-yard gain. On the next play, the Bucs sent six rushers at Stafford, but Edwards, Allen and the rest of the offensive line held them at bay long enough for Kupp to race past Antoine Winfield. Stafford unleashed a perfect rainbow that Kupp hauled in for a 44-yard gain to the Bucs’ 12-yard line.
“I blocked Jason Pierre-Paul and he kind of backed up a little bit so I was able to see the flight of the ball and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. What an absolute (beauty),’ ” said Edwards, who threw his arms up just after the catch was made. “I was super excited, running down the field acting like a goofball. Those are the moments you’ll always remember.”
The Rams won on a 30-yard field goal by Matt Gay.
“David is not excitable,” Wander said. “But he was excited after that game. This one was special because one more game and he’s in a Super Bowl.”
And what would that mean to Edwards?
“I mean that’s what you dream of, right?” he said. “That’s the ultimate prize and why you train your ass off in the offseason and you grind during training camp and go through the ebbs and flows of the season to get to this moment.
“To play in the Super Bowl and to win it would just make it all worth it.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle