CERES — Josh Edwards realized the need to market himself, as well as improve his skills, after throwing for 1,732 yards and 14 TDs as a junior.
Ceres High doesn't have a reputation for producing collegiate passers and its football program has struggled to produce wins, so Edwards had to attract potential suitors by showcasing himself.
"During the offseason between my junior and senior years, I went to as many team and quarterback camps as I could handle," the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder said. "My goals (were) to throw for over 2,000 yards, about 30 touchdowns, and rush for 300 yards."
When he wasn't taking part in drills or throwing to receivers, Edwards was a regular in the weight room. The goal was to create a body college coaches could admire, and impress them with a strong arm and smart decision-making.
The strategy was paying off early in the season: Edwards connected on 51 percent of his throws for 1,011 yards and nine TDs midway through the Bulldogs' fourth game.
Then it ended in an instant, as Edwards scrambled out of the pocket as he felt the pressure. He planted his right leg before cutting upfield, but he was hit in his right shoulder and swung violently around.
His right cleat, however, remained firmly planted in the turf -- tearing his ACL and MCL. The injury typically occurs in sports where cutting, twisting, and turning are common, such as skiing, basketball, football and soccer.
If the ACL and MCL are not intact, the knee loses its stability and strength. Runners will tumble to the turf if they shift direction, and the knee collapses when passers use it to push off while throwing.
Edwards' season was over, but not his recruiting effort.
"Never being able to step on the field crossed my mind, but it was never an option," Edwards said. "During my time on the sideline I did a lot of thinking about college."
The weeks following the injury, Edwards and his father began assembling tapes from his first three games and pairing them with a dossier of his academic accomplishments.
The combination got the attention of Randy Lamberth, a Modesto native coaching the offensive line at the University of Mary in North Dakota.
"You could see on the films he had the physical tools, and he had the great academic history that is important to us," Lamberth said. "We're a Division 2 school with fewer scholarships,so we need kids who are going to succeed in class."
What also impressed Lamberth, though, was Edwards' drive even after the injury.
"We're looking for kids who will come in and get a degree in four years, while still playing football," he said. "That's why his academics are key."
Mary offered Edwards a partial scholarship, good for 25 percent of its $18,000 tuition. The percentage can increase, Edwards said, if he is healthy and maintaining his grades.
He has been rehabilitating his knee and expects to be in uniform when Mary begins practicing late this summer.
Edwards was hoping to get on with a D-1 school, but interest disappeared once coaches saw the extent of his injury.
"Considering my injury, I was excited to get a D-2 offer," Edwards said. "University of Mary is taking a real chance. In the end, football was a secondary concern of mine, Education is my first priority."
Edwards said he has a 3.8 GPA at Ceres, balancing football, baseball and homework.
"Academics has always gotten more attention than football," said Edwards, who intends to study business and dentistry with the goal of becoming an orthodontist. "In college, though, the time will be more equally distributed because football is the main reason for going to Mary."
Another enticement for the North Dakota college was its offense is similar to the one Edwards ran at Ceres -- shotgun formations with receivers on combination routes.
Edwards says there are lessons to be learned from his injury, particularly the need to go forward rather than dwell on an unfortunate injury.
"If you get injured, don't get down. How you react to hardship shows (your) character," he said. "The kind of work you do and how hard you do it ultimately decides how quick your recovery is."
Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at 578-2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.