A place at the table: Edwards earns key role with GophersAfter learning from the sidelines in his first year with the University of Minnesota football team, Woodbury 2010 graduate LaMonte Edwards has risen up the depth chart and earned a key role for the Gophers this fall.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
After learning from the sidelines in his first year with the University of Minnesota football team, Woodbury 2010 graduate LaMonte Edwards has risen up the depth chart and earned a key role for the Gophers this fall.
Edwards, a 6’2”, 210-pound running back, is backing up senior Duane Bennett and will be in the mix in short-yardage and goal line situations for Minnesota this year.
“LaMonte had a great camp and could have a significant role on our football team if he can stay healthy,” Minnesota first-year head coach Jerry Kill said. “He’s a tailback. That’s what he’s done for us so far as well as playing special teams. We do a lot with our kids on special teams and, if he’s healthy, he’ll have a role there as well.”
Edwards, 20, redshirted for the Gophers last fall, giving him four more years of college eligibility. He said he’s excited to get back on the field after a year of practicing and preparing to be a college football player in the Big Ten.
“I’ve been learning how to go slow to the hole and burst through the hole,” Edwards said. “To be honest, that’s helped me out a lot. I’m learning how to get to the hole, read the pulling guards and see what they’re doing and then react. It’s not just all about speed and trying to burst through the hole. That’s a big difference in college football. You can’t just use your natural athletic ability to escape from everything, you need to follow the scheme.”
Edwards also said one of the biggest differences from high school to college football is the level of intensity.
“It’s different,” he said. “There’s a lot more intensity. Each practice is like a high school game almost, with the level of intensity of the coaches and how live it is.”
Edwards didn’t start playing football until middle school. However, as a senior at Woodbury, Edwards earned second-team All-State honors as he rushed for 1,053 yards and 13 touchdowns despite playing only six full games and missing three with a foot injury. As a senior he went over 150 yards in five games and over 100 in every full game in 2009. He had a season-high 180 yards against Stillwater and a season-high four touchdowns to go along with169 yards against Forest Lake. He also played defensive back for the Royals, recording 45 tackles and forcing four fumbles as a senior and tallied 159 yards rushing and three scores on just 20 carries as a junior in 2008.
Kill said he liked Edwards’ natural ability.
“He’s a physical runner, he has a lot of power and a lot of fast twitch to him,” Kill said. “He’s a young player with a tremendous amount of upside.”
One area Kill said he was looking forward to seeing Edwards improve was merely gaining more experience.
“We have a whole team full of freshmen and sophomores,” Kill said. “They need experience. You can’t get any better until you get that experience. He just needs to keep playing.”
Former coach says Edwards has a hunger not in all athletes
Edwards’ coach at Woodbury High School was Beau LaBore, who is now the head coach of Stillwater. Edwards was in eighth grade when LaBore began coaching at Woodbury. LaBore said he heard about Edwards and how good he was right away and then watched him play as a freshman, but didn’t meet Edwards until he was a sophomore.
“One night I was walking through an empty parking lot at Woodbury,” LaBore said. “Nobody else was there and here comes this tall, muscular, lanky looking fellow walking across the parking lot. I kind of took a shot and asked him if he was LaMonte Edwards. I kind of just knew. He just looked different — he was so big and strong.”
Edwards starred for the Woodbury sophomore team and LaBore said he was about to call him up to varsity when he suffered a cracked rib, so he wasn’t able to use him as a sophomore.
“He has unbelievable physical gifts, but to go with it, he is a very diligent, very hard-working athlete,” LaBore said. “As he progressed through high school, he became a more diligent, hard-working student as well. He’s a person that you always want to be around, he’s constantly smiling, he’s humble and he looks out for his teammates and classmates.”
LaBore said there is a hunger in Edwards that’s not in every athlete.
“He’s been given a lot with his natural ability, but he’s willing to work hard and go find more,” LaBore said. “That’s one of the reasons the Gophers coaches have liked him so much I think. He’s very coachable and is willing to do whatever he can to help the Minnesota Gophers.”
LaBore said Edwards loves the game of football and that his ceiling is immeasurable.
“He’s late to the game and I think his understanding of the game will continue to grow exponentially,” LaBore said. “Also, he’s still a slim 6’2” and 210 pounds, so he can get bigger and stronger and still maintain his speed. He’s got four more years to make it happen out there.”
Edwards said he’s learned a lot in just over a year with the Gophers — from coach Kill, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover and running backs coach Brian Anderson.
“Here you have individual coaches to help teach you,” Edwards said. “In high school, you don’t really have that. Just a head coach and a defensive and offensive coach. Here you have your own specific coach that tells you what you need to do better and teaches you a lot of things you didn’t learn in high school.”
For the Gophers, Edwards wears No. 32, but said the running back he looks up to most is Walter Payton, who wore No. 34 during his Hall of Fame career for the Bears. However, the two backs have one similarity.
“I’ve always loved Walter Payton,” Edwards said. “He was physical, he didn’t shy away from tackles. If someone was going to hit him, he hit them back with the same power. That’s how I like it, too. If someone is going to try and tackle me, I want to make them feel the pain too.”