Since he started school, Norwich senior Kyle Edwards has always been a step ahead.
He was already reading and writing when he started kindergarten at Gibson Elementary School. As a youngster at the Norwich YMCA, he was honing a crossover and behind-the-back dribble while some of his contemporaries were still learning to tie their shoes. And as one former high school football coach prophetically observed of an 8-year-old Edwards: “He’s got good feet, he’ll make a good running back some day.”
From those days as a precocious young athlete to the start of his final year as a Norwich High School athlete, Edwards has shown the uncanny knack to make clutch plays – and the right play – when his team needs it the most.
It often seems that Edwards, with a ball in his hand, isn’t playing tackle football, but touch football. A lean 6-foot-3, Edwards is slippery even when not wet, and difficult to bring down. “One of the neatest things I’ve seen watching Kyle on offense is that usually, the first guy that makes contact does not tackle him,” said Norwich varsity football coach, John Martinson. “He’s extremely shifty and elusive. It’s funny, when you look at Kyle’s height and build, other guys are deceived by how good of a football player he is. He’s extremely knowledgeable about the game, and in terms of his leadership, is unbelievable.”
Edwards won’t wow you with his 40-yard dash time, but he is what Martinson calls, “football fast.” He’s that car on the highway that imperceptibly moves along in traffic without notice – until he needs to make pass. Like most great running backs, Edwards has that extra gear when chased by a defender.
In the Purple Tornado’s 48-22 division win over longtime rival Oneonta last week, Edwards shifted into high gear in what was likely the best all-around offensive performance by a Chenango County football player this season. Along with teammate Mike Oralls, Edwards ran for over 100 yards and two scores. He caught five passes for 100 yards on the nose, and padded an already standout day with a 66-yard punt return for a score.
According to our records, Edwards is the first area back in at least 18 years to finish a game with at least 100 yards rushing and receiving, and is a no-brainer for our honor as Matthews Ford/Planted Preowned Norwich Athlete of the Week.
“Kyle is one of those kids who takes care of all the small things, and he pays attention to the details,” Martinson said. “He practices extremely hard, and because he practices so hard, he makes the games look easy.”
Edwards’ touchdown on the punt return is a perfect example of his individual skills. Martinson has said his main objective when the other team is punting is to go for the punt block. He makes no bones about it, and does not set up any special blocking for his return man. Martinson’s only requirements of a punt returner: Catch the ball, and do not fumble it.
“But we do tell our guys (on punt returns), because Kyle is such a good runner, to at least get a piece of the guy standing in front of you,” Martinson said.
His offensive skills already well honed, Edwards contributes in every phase of the game. As a defensive back, he is Norwich’s second leading tackler. He’s in the mold of a Troy Polamalu in which he has no problem crushing a ballcarrier, but once the play is over, he is likely the first to offer his hand to pick the kid up. On special teams, not only is Edwards a dangerous returner, but an effective punter. Over the two years he has routinely pinned opponents deep in their own end. “I’ll be honest, we don’t give our punters a lot of reps during the week,” Martinson said. “And it seems like every game, he is punting ball inside the other team’s 10. He’s a factor everywhere on the field, and he rarely comes off the field.”
As a teammate, Kyle’s leadership is unquestioned, and with his personable, friendly manner, is often seen by Martinson talking to kids on the team you wouldn’t expect. “He makes everyone comfortable and feel a part of the team. It’s a natural gift he has,” Martinson said. “Kyle understands the whole community aspect, and lot of that comes from parenting. He’s a special young man.”