(Editor’s note: MTN Sports began recognizing some of the best football players in Montana history on July 2 with the launch of the #MTTop40. The series started with defensive backs and will run eight weeks, featuring one position each week, concluding with quarterbacks the week of Aug. 20-24 to coincide with Montana’s high school football season opener. This week, we profile the defensive linemen.)
No. 2 defensive lineman – Dwan Edwards, Columbus
Many high school football stars gain weight or change positions to excel at the college level. Dwan Edwards took that to the extreme, transitioning from an all-state linebacker at Columbus to an all-conference defensive tackle at Oregon State.
Dwan Edwards stat sheet
Edwards, who was a three-sport standout at Columbus from 1996-99, played all over the football field for then-coach John Smith. Edwards started on both sides of the ball for three seasons, garnering all-conference honors on both offense and defense all three years. He was a two-time all-state selection at linebacker, recording 75 total tackles, three sacks, five tackles-for-loss and one interception as a junior and 87 total tackles, three sacks, seven tackles-for-loss and two interceptions as a senior. Offensively, he split time between tight end and fullback. Columbus went 24-5 during Edwards’ three seasons. He was also a two-year starter in basketball, averaging more than 20 points per game as a junior and more than 22 points per game as a senior. He was a first-team all-state basketball selection each year and helped Columbus to a second-place state finish in 1999.
Edwards attended Oregon State, where he redshirted in 1999 and gained nearly 60 pounds for his move to the defensive line. He appeared in 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2000, recording 27 total tackles, nine tackles-for-loss and five sacks as a backup defensive tackle. Edwards moved into the starting lineup in 2001 and played in 10 games, totaling 31 tackles, five tackles-for-loss and two sacks. As a junior in 2002, he racked up 50 total tackles, including nine for loss and 3.5 sacks on his way to honorable mention all-conference honors in the Pac-10. In 2003, Edwards finished with 51 total tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss and three sacks. He was voted team MVP alongside Steven Jackson and Richard Seigler and earned all-conference recognition.
The Baltimore Ravens selected Edwards in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He played his first five professional seasons with the Ravens, becoming a full-time starter in 2007. He finished that season with 41 combined tackles, one sack and one interception. Edwards suffered a season-ending injury during the 2008 preseason but returned to the Ravens’ starting lineup in 2009. He recorded 47 combined tackles and one sack. Edwards signed a free-agent contract with Buffalo prior to the 2010 season and spent two years with the Bills before finishing his career with the Carolina Panthers. In 2012, his first season with the Panthers, Edwards recorded 52 combined tackles, including a career-high six sacks. All told in his 12-year career, Edwards finished with 353 total tackles, 19.5 sacks and three interceptions.
… on Edwards:
Former Columbus coach John Smith: “He was an outstanding inside linebacker. He played MIKE ‘backer for us and then also played fullback his senior year. I think if he would’ve grown up in a little bigger high school program, I think he probably would’ve been a kid that people would’ve looked at as a tight end, because he had incredible hands, good speed, good feet, very intelligent. At linebacker, he played sideline to sideline – didn’t have incredible speed but also at the same time had a real good idea of where the ball was going, so he always seemed to be around it.
“He played D-line for us a couple years when he was younger, when he was a sophomore and at the end of his freshman year he played a little bit of D-line, so it wasn’t like something foreign to him. One of the things I discussed with the guys who came and recruited him and some of the other coaches who came and watched him play, he carried most of his weight from his hips down. His legs were incredibly strong. That’s where a lot of guys saw his potential in growth to be a bigger player. He left here at 230 as a senior and then came back at the end of his freshman year, redshirt year, at Oregon State, and he weighed 290. So yeah, there was a change in his stature, for sure. He was eating three squares a day plus whatever they made him eat in between, and then also became pretty sport-specific with the weight-training thing.
“I remember, we were playing Whitehall and a kid named, I want to say it was Mike Webber, was returning a kickoff. This kid was one of the fastest kids in the state and we harped on them all week, all the players, that we really had to contain this guy on these kickoffs, because he was dangerous, he was going to hurt us if he got loose. So we put Dwan at a 1, which was basically a head-hunter in the middle right next to the kicker and another young man, and opening kickoff, down the field here comes this kid, breaks it about the 30-yard line, makes a right turn and runs right into Dwan. It was lights out. The kid never got back up. We were all highly concerned about how hard the kid got hit, but after a while he got up and walked off the field, never played again. But I did run into the young man again after that hit about five years later and asked him what that was like, and he said to this day he can’t remember a thing about it other than the fact he got hit by an NFL player.”
Former Huntley Project coach Jim Stanton: “Really just a super athlete, a big kid who played skill positions back then. He was the fullback and inside ‘backer, and I distinctly remember it was very difficult to run the ball in between the tackles. He played the middle ‘backer in their (4-3 defense), and that area was pretty much taken care of by him. You had to work for everything. But above that, just a classy kid out there. Really saw his athleticism in basketball, as well.
“He played the running back position. You had to have some courage to jump up and try to take him down. I don’t think that was an easy task for any kid, so you definitely wanted to get him before he got going. I do remember one time when he played the middle ‘backer position, we had a heck of a time moving the ball, and he had to go out for either a helmet, chin strap or a cramp, and we marched it right down the field in about three plays, so that tells you the impact he did have in that defense that they did have. We had some very good teams, too.”