Photo: 2020 Westbrook Christian graduate Will Edwards signed a football scholarship with Huntington College on July 17 in Rainbow City. Pictured, sitting, from left: mom Jill, Edwards, dad Eddie. Standing, from left: sister Anna Cate, grandfather Mike Nunn, grandmother Betty Nunn, brother Jake. (Katie Bohannon/Messenger)
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor and Chris McCarthy, Publisher
Will Edwards’ one season of varsity football paid off in a big way.
The 2020 Westbrook Christian graduate signed a football scholarship with Huntington College on July 17 in Rainbow City.
“I never would’ve thought I’d be [playing football at the next level],” said Edwards. “I never kicked until my senior year, and now I’m going to play college football. I never would’ve thought that in a million years.”
Edwards, whose athletic background is in soccer, said that he never gave much thought to playing football until Drew Noles took over as Westbrook football coach in the spring of 2019.
“I’d been thinking about doing it for the past three years but never wanted to because of soccer. Coach Noles convinced me to try out. I knew that I had the leg, so I figured, why not?”
The Warriors were fortunate that Edwards decided to join the program. In 12 games during the 2019 season, he converted 41 of 42 PAT attempts while going 5-for-8 in field goals for a total of 56 points.
Edwards also had seven touchbacks in which his kickoffs went out of the end zone with the opposing team having to start its drive at its own 20-yard line.
Edwards was named to the ASWA Class 2A All-State second team and the All-Messenger first team after helping the Warriors finish 8-4 and earn the program’s first postseason victory in nine years. As the region’s No. 4 seed, Westbrook went on the road in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs and upset top-seeded Aliceville, 25-22.
“After we won that game, one of my friends came up to me and said, ‘I bet you never cried like that after a soccer game,’” said Edwards. “I was bawling, I was so excited. It was just so fun for me all year long.”
Edwards appreciated that Noles took the time to recruit him to the football team.
“Coach Noles is a great guy,” said Edwards. “He welcomed me into the team and made me feel like I’d been there forever. He acted like he knew me and cared about me, and he cared so much about my position he was always trying to work with me and try to make me better.”
Edwards joins a Huntingdon team that went 8-4 last season, including a 6-1 mark in the USA South Conference. The Hawks won the conference championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
“I love the environment at Huntingdon, and I love [head coach Mike Turk],” said Edwards, who has not yet decided on a major. “I love the small-school environment. It took like a week for me to realize that I was going to go there.”
In 30 years of coaching football, Noles said that Edwards was only one of two kickers he witnessed change the complexion of a game.
“When I was at Etowah, Fort Payne had a kicker [who] kicked a 56 yard [field goal], kicked two onside kicks, kicked punts of 89 yards 76 yards in one game. At Aliceville, we were [losing], and the first kickoff we had, Will sky-kicked it perfectly to the exact guy we want to kick it to. [The kick returner] fumbled the ball and we recovered and scored. Will then perfectly executed an onside kick. We got the ball back and went down and scored, and Will kicked the long field goal at the end to seal [the win]. He changed the game for us. You’ve got to have a good kicking game, and Will was able to do that for us.”
Noles praised Edwards for his work ethic, selflessness and positive attitude.
“Will stood by his teammates. A lot of times the kicker doesn’t want to be a part of a lot of stuff, but he was a part of everything. A lot of times kickers want to dodge conditioning, but he was disciplined in that area. And he’s such a competitor. Will wasn’t just a kicker; he was a great athlete. One of the first kids I heard of when I came to Westbrook was Will. He’s got a great family, and they’ve raised him right. We’ll miss him in our program, no doubt.”
Noles anticipates Edwards making an impact for Huntingdon sooner rather than later.
“I think he’ll step in and play for the immediately. He’s that good. If you can kick a 50-yarder and you haven’t even been kicking, you’ve got a chance to be pretty special.”