Jaquan Edwards: Barely Recruited to Wingate Football Star

Staff Writer: RJ Rennie

Redshirt senior middle linebacker Jaquan Edwards is leading a
Wingate defense that has been nothing short of dominant during
the 2022 campaign. While the star defender has been a ferocious
tackler this season, off the field he is a soft-spoken family man
with a soft spot for home.

Born in Johnston, S.C., to John and Betty Edwards, Jaquan has
no shortage of athletes in his family. Both of his parents were
athletes in their day, and his brother, Tay Edwards, played football
in high school before exploring a different path after graduation.
Jaquan is a graduate of Strom Thurmond High School in
Edgefield County, where Johnston is located.

Edwards has a particular affection for his hometown. “A lot of
people don’t know us, but I try to represent [the town] hard,” he
said. “It’s the peace capital of the world located in the Lowcountry
of South Carolina.”

The town of about 2,500 residents is located about 100 miles
away from Wingate’s campus, but in Edwards’ four years at the
university, the distance has not kept him from making it home to
see his parents, siblings and family dog. He says that they are a
“dog family,” and they still have one of the two dogs he grew up

“I try to make it home every chance I get,” he said. “I’m a really
family-oriented guy, so after being away from home I like to get
back to my city.”

Being from such a small town, it seemed like a perfect fit for
Edwards to end up at a place like Wingate, but his eyes were not
always fixed on the school. He had several schools recruit him out of high school, but they all dropped him right before the time
came to enroll.

Then former Wingate assistant coach Dillon
Tucker, the Bulldogs’ recruiting coordinator for his area at that
time, reached out to him, and Edwards was able make a quick trip
north to meet head coach Joe Reich.

Edwards says he is indebted to Reich for giving him his chance to
play college football.

“Coach Reich blessed me with an opportunity.” Edwards said.
“They showed me much love, and I told them I was coming on the
spot with no hesitation.”

After arriving on campus, Edwards graduated with a bachelor’s
degree in psychology, and he is currently enrolled in the MAT
(Master’s of Art and Teaching) program at the university.
Edwards was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing football,
basketball and baseball. He was primarily a forward in basketball
due to his 5-11, 228-pound stature, and in baseball he was a

After a knee injury his sophomore year, he decided to
quit basketball and focus his attention on baseball and football.
In football, he was not always a linebacker. He played running
back for Strom Thurmond High, compiling 2,523 yards rushing
and 28 rushing touchdowns in his four years with the Rebels. That
offensive focus meant all of his high school tape was as a running
back, not at the position for which he currently excels. That switch
came after he arrived on campus and joined the team.

“Coach Reich asked me what I wanted to play, and I said
whatever helps the team,” Edwards said. “Coach told me that they
wanted me to be comfortable, and whatever position I wanted to
play I could play. We had some great guys in the backfield, so I
felt like I had a better opportunity to get on the field quicker at
linebacker. I went with that, and it’s turning out all right.”

It has been more than all right for Edwards and the Bulldogs’
defense this season. The group has led the nation in scoring
defense for most of the campaign, allowing 9.9 points per game,
and Edwards is among the conference leaders in tackles with

He was a preseason first-team All-South Atlantic
Conference selection and picked as a team captain for the
Bulldogs. He has embraced the leadership role this season,
providing direction to help the defense thrive.

“It’s easy to lead those guys, because everyone has their team
agenda, and they are going to push each other and make each
other better.” Edwards said. “Sirod [Cook] pusing Justin Rhodes,
[sophomore defensive tackle] Justin Rhodes pushing DJ Horne,
[senior defensive end] DJ Horne pushing my guy [sophomore
defensive end Marquise] Fleming. It’s like iron sharpening iron out
there, and as a captain it’s very easy to lead those guys.”

Edwards’ teammates share the same respect for his leadership.
“Jaquan Edwards has always been a great leader,” Rhodes said.
“He always gets us in the right position, and if things go wrong we
look to him as a guy to help everybody step their game up. He is
a really important piece to our defense.”

As a diehard Baltimore Ravens fan, Edwards admires the talent of
NFL Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis. Currently, he
models his linebacker play after the likes of Tampa Bay’s Devin
White and Pittsburgh’s Devin Bush Jr. As an All-America
candidate who’s leading arguably the best defense in all of
Division II, Edwards has been busy showing the teams that didn’t
recruit him what they are missing.

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