Sun, Aug 31, 2008 - Page 14 News List

SUNDAY PROFILE: A father’s prediction becomes a son’s tribute

Armanti Edwards’journey from struggling infant to college football star is as fascinating as it is improbable

By Thayer Evans  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , GREENWOOD, SOUTH CAROLINA

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The baby came 10 days late, weighed 2.1kg and had to be rushed to a neonatal intensive care unit. But through all the chaos here in this lush upstate town, Freddie Edwards predicted that his boy, born without breath, would someday take the country’s breath away.

He told his girlfriend, the baby’s mother, Deborah Anderson: “That boy is going to make somebody a whole lot of money someday. His name is going to be Money.”

The boy was Armanti Edwards. And although Money never made it on the birth certificate 20 years ago, Edwards has earned the nickname one believer at a time on the football field as the left-handed, dreadlocked starting quarterback at Appalachian State. Last year as a sophomore, he fulfilled his father’s prediction by leading the Mountaineers to an axis-shifting upset of Michigan and to the program’s third consecutive Football Championship Subdivision national championship.

But Freddie Edwards was not around to see it. He has been in prison for two years after being convicted of killing a man over US$2 in a poker game.

Edwards’ journey from struggling infant to college football star is as fascinating as it has been improbable. He was to take the field yesterday at No. 7 Louisiana State as the first legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate from this level of college football since 1994, when Steve McNair was the quarterback at Alcorn State. He will also be an underdog.

It is a familiar role, though he knows that his father — his biggest believer — will be following the game from South Carolina’s McCormick Correctional Institution.

“He always believed in me,” Edwards said.

Interested in playing quarterback for a major-college program, Edwards received his first recruiting letter from Harvard. He was not interested and promptly threw it away. Only Appalachian State, the Citadel and Elon offered him a scholarship at quarterback, according to his mother.

At South Carolina, coach Steve Spurrier, one of the country’s pre-eminent quarterback gurus, told Edwards and other recruits that none of them would be offered scholarships at the position, Anderson said. That news from Spurrier. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden did not offer him a scholarship because there were bigger, faster and stronger quarterbacks. “I’d take him in a heartbeat now,” Bowden said in a telephone interview. “I just made a mistake earlier.”

As Edwards was figuring out the recruiting process, he was also dealing with the case against his father.

Freddie Edwards, 60, has not attended one of his son’s games since Armanti was a high school junior. In September 2006, Freddie Edwards was convicted of murder and a weapons charge in the shooting death of a man named George Freeman. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and given a projected release date of August 2036. He is appealing his case, Anderson said.

According to a police report and a local prosecutor, Freddie Edwards and two other men were playing poker in a building behind his home on July 16, 2005.

During the game, Freddie Edwards made a new rule that if a player folded out of turn, he had to put US$2 into the pot. That upset one of the men, Freeman, who said he would not abide by the rule. An argument ensued between Freddie Edwards and Freeman.

Freddie Edwards then went inside his home, emerged carrying a silver revolver with a wooden handle and began chasing Freeman. Freeman fell while fleeing, and Freddie Edwards ran up and shot him once in the head, the third man told the police.

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