It was August of 2012, and many people watching the Conway football team’s season opener against Georgetown believed they had just seen standout Tigers receiver Malcolm Green catch a first-quarter touchdown pass.
Green was one of the top receivers in the state, and he was later named one of the MVPs of the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. His build was noticeable, even from afar. However, within minutes, the mistake was caught by everyone from the public address announcer to the fans in the stands.
It wasn’t Green.
It was a then-13-year-old named Bryan Edwards, a player who already possessed a similar skill set and a ready-for-college frame. As good of a job as Conway coaches did at keeping Edwards under wraps in the weeks leading up to that game — he wasn’t listed on the team’s original roster that year — it was the last time the up-and-coming receiver was overlooked.
On Saturday, the junior continued his remarkable football path by announcing he verbally committed to the University of South Carolina, one of the three major programs that offered him a scholarship before he turned 14.
“Definitely, [the recruiting cycle] happening early played a big part,” said Edwards, who told the USC coaches of his intentions while attending the school’s Junior Day festivities. “I got to see a lot of places and I got a clear visual in my mind.
“I kind of had an idea in my mind. As far as pulling the trigger, it just happened today.”
In addition to the Gamecocks, Clemson and Florida offered Edwards a spot at the end of his freshman year. Since then, he’s picked up nearly 10 more from some of the most notorious programs in the country.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder previously listed USC and Georgia as his favorites.
All those offers and the accompanying evaluation led him to be deemed a four-star product in multiple national databases. Should that hold through the rest of his time in Conway, the two-time Toast of the Coast selection would be the highest-ranked player to come out of the Grand Strand since 2006, when Carvers Bay’s Clifton Geathers also garnered four stars and headed to South Carolina.
There’s little reason to believe the lofty rating won’t stay where it is.
As a junior, Edwards had 52 catches for 688 yards and six touchdowns while adding 182 yards and two scores via punt returns. In 2013, he put up 66 receptions for 680 yards and eight scores.
And while he made the commitment to USC head coach Steve Spurrier in person, this was by no means a flash-in-the-pan decision.
“He’s taken a bunch of visits over the years, been to camps over the summer,” Conway coach Chuck Jordan said Saturday. “Bryan’s a pretty methodical kind of kid. He’s not an off-the-cuff type.”
Edwards spoke to The Sun News at length last summer about preparing himself for the final half of his recruitment. He’s kept his grade-point average north of 3.0, and his work on the field has only improved since he caught that 32-yard touchdown as a freshman.
Just as importantly, he’s continued to build a rapport with Gamecocks recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. Edwards posted a picture of the two of them on his Twitter feed months back, and it was one of several meetings the two have had since Edwards burst onto the scene.
That relationship gave USC the edge over Georgia, not to mention everyone other school that has taken notice.
Bryan Edwards caught a TD in the first quarter of his freshman season. By the end of the year, he had three major offers - at 13 years old.— Ian Guerin (@iguerin) March 28, 2015