Position: Running back
Weight: 219 lbs.
Hometown: Matthews, N.C. (Butler)
Major: Sport Administration
Not many teams thought Jahwan Edwards had what it took to play at the Division I level.
When the Ball State senior running back was going through the recruiting process during his time at Butler High School in North Carolina, he only received one D-I offer.
For a football player who believed he had what it took to make it at a larger program, it was a shot to his ego.
“It was really hard for me because I knew I could play with everybody, I played with guys who went to bigger schools,” Edwards said. “I thought I was going to be at one of those programs. I didn’t want to let the coaches here down; I wanted them to know they made the right choice.”
Edwards is a four-year starter for the Cardinals and set the record for most rushing yards in a career at Ball State against Central Michigan, accumulating 4,013 yards so far.
Not bad for a player that had 127 D-I teams pass him by.
It wasn’t as if he didn’t flash talent. He scored 33 touchdowns as a senior in high school and was named the most valuable player during his team’s state champion games his junior and senior years.
But his work inside the classroom scared some teams away. Edwards said he was a 2.0 student before he came to Ball State, but didn’t want to reach the point where he was more worried about his grades than helping his team win.
“He was a modest student in high school and certainly a guy that we knew would have to mature in that capacity when he got here,” head coach Pete Lembo said.
Edwards said he wishes he had been more vocal and talked to more people when first joining the team. He described himself as an introvert who doesn’t have a best friend on the team, but instead views the entire roster as a family who supports and comforts him, being so far away from his blood relatives.
Edwards became Ball State’s starting running back for the final seven games his freshman season. Since then, he’s been a constant source of reliability on an offense that’s had variables changing every season.
He’s the only player on offense to start all four seasons. When he lines up in the backfield and looks around, there isn’t a single other player on the field who he lined up with as a freshman.
But four years ago, he didn’t know what to expect.
“I was really lost, I didn’t know what my role was going to be,” Edwards said. “I didn’t want to redshirt or sit out a year. I wanted to play football and keep my mind off of missing home.”
Lembo described Edwards as “a pudgy guy who was pushing 235,” when he arrived as a freshman. Through the help of strength and conditioning coordinator Dave Feeley, Edwards is down to 219-pounds and has added significantly more muscle.
“There are days when I push myself to limits I never knew I had,” Edwards said. “I’ve pushed myself until I threw up, until I went home and had to sleep the whole day. Adversity makes a person.”
When running backs coach and special teams coordinator Justin Lutsig met him, Lustig was surprised after only seeing him on videos.
“You watch him on film, he looked like a little scat back, he was quick and made people miss,” Lustig said. “My first impression when I met him was, ‘Wow, this guy is a lot bigger than he looks on film.’”
That size has helped lead Edwards into the record books. Despite being the top rusher in Ball State history, both in yards and in touchdowns, he wants to impact the team in as many ways as possible. He plays special teams and often volunteers to take other units on the team.
He doesn’t care what kind of stats he produces if Ball State doesn’t win.
“He could rush for 200 yards and we lose, and he’s got a sad face,” Lustig said. “I’ll show him game film after a loss and compliment him on something. He’ll get pissed off and say something like ‘How can you compliment me if we didn’t win the game.’”
The Cardinals steadily increased their win total throughout his first three seasons at Ball State, and the same can be said about Edwards’ dedication as a student.
And there’s one thing he’s particularly proud of that has nothing to do with football.
“I got up to a 3.2 grade point average,” he said with a smile.