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STANHOPE — For Southern Nash High senior Darius Edmundson, 100 yards, not 94 feet, is the length of his future.
The Firebirds’ three-sport standout decided that football, not basketball, would be his path to college Wednesday when he signed with Louisburg College of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Edmundson, who was the 3-A Big East Conference Player of the Year in boys basketball this past season, ultimately followed the advice of everyone who told him that his future was on the football field.
“God gave me the ability to do both but I felt like He gave me a little more talent in football because of how fast I am and my athleticism,” said Edmundson, largely acknowledged as the fastest athlete at Southern Nash and a sprinter and jumper on the track and field team.
The son of Mary and Steve Edmundson of Middlesex, Edmundson wants to major in sports medicine.
Edmundson was still undecided until a week ago when he learned on a visit to Louisburg that his total aid package would be more than he and Firebirds head coach Brian Foster initially thought it would.
With an offer to play basketball at Davidson Community College and interest from hoops programs at Averett (Virginia) University and Spring Hill (Alabama) College, Edmundson was determined that football would be where he ultimately made his mark.
But it wasn’t an easy path for Edmundson, who caught Foster’s attention while at Southern Nash Middle. But Edmundson was in love with basketball and the idea that he could play collegiately. So that’s all he did his first two years at Southern Nash, despite his friends urging him to use his blazing speed on the football and track.
Foster said that he never asked Edmundson to play football because he only wanted him to come out if he really wanted to play.
“I just knew what it would do for him because he’s talented,” the Firebirds coach said. “He can run. He’s explosive. Probably one of the most natural athletes we’ve ever had.”
Despite having scant understanding of Southern Nash’s complex double-wing offense, Edmundson proved to be a jolt of energy whenever he touched the ball as a junior. He ran for 217 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries for a whopping 27.1 yards-per-carry average. He led the team with seven catches for 164 yards and two TDs.
“I don’t think anybody’s seen close to what he can do,” Foster said. “His junior year, he was so far behind it was hard to put him in because he didn’t know what we were doing. We do a lot of different stuff and we would have a couple of different packages for him. He was fun to watch.”
By the time the 2018 season rolled around, Edmundson was entrenched at cornerback, replacing former state 3-A 200-meter dash champion Nadir Thompson, who was a freshman on the Virginia Tech football team.
“This year, it was like having another Nadir,” Foster said.
And defense is where he’ll likely play for the Hurricanes.
“Louisburg told me they liked me because my highlights had me playing receiver and DB,” Edmundson said. “They really like me as DB but if they need me on offense, that’s what they said they would do. They would put me on offense because of my speed and athleticism and I can pretty much play running back, receiver or DB.”
Foster thinks defense is Edmundson’s calling.
“He’ll be a good lockdown corner with his hips, his speed, just his makeup — if he gets beat, he can make it up in a hurry,” Foster said. “Plus, he’s so raw at it. That’s what I told the coaches I’ve talked to about him. He’s going to be like a sponge when he gets there because he’s going to learn so much more. He’s really had a year and a half of football.”
Edmundson, who never played defense in middle school, said it was a tough transition but he enjoyed it.
“My junior year was good but my senior year was my best year,” he said with a smile.
Edmundson also returned kickoffs and posted 539 all-purpose yards, including 191 on six interceptions. The video of his one-handed pick and subsequent return for a TD (that was negated by a penalty) ended up being tweeted by the website Bleacher Report, earning Edmundson some fame.
But his lack of focus on academics his first two years at Southern Nash and being a relative unknown until last fall, kept Edmundson from getting any attention from NCAA FBS programs.
Now he hopes that he will get there from Louisburg.
“Their main goal is to get me where I’m supposed to be and that’s playing at Division I level. I chose because that’s what it can get me and that’s where I can be,” he said.
Ultimately, he wants to be reunited with former Southern Nash teammate Zonovan Knight, who graduated in December so he could enroll early at N.C. State.
“We talked about when we were little,” Edmundson said. “He used to stay not too far from me, where I could walk down to his house. I looked up to him for his success in playing football. He told me all four years to play football but I just didn’t listen. I was so focused on basketball.”
Now that focus has turned to football and Edmundson thinks that path can take him far.
“Hopefully, playing at a Division I school somewhere, hopefully still in North Carolina and I hope it could be N.C. State,” he said.
Foster thinks that Edmundson can overcome the difficulty of traversing the junior college route and find his way to a major college program.
“It’s like I told him the first couple of years that he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing in the class room, he’s going to make up for it there,” Foster said. “Everybody has different routes, different ways they get to where they need to get to. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just something he needs to do.
“If I didn’t think he could do it, I wouldn’t have ever contacted anybody.”