Granite City quarterback Freddy Edwards has put major shoulder surgery and six months of rehabilitation behind him and will be at full strength when the Warriors begin workouts for the 2018 season later this summer.
The speedy playmaker's sophomore season came to a sudden end last September when he suffered a separated right shoulder and torn labrum in the third game of the season, a 43-14 loss to Belleville East.
Edwards is hitting a respectable .300 with six RBI and has made three appearances on the mound for the baseball Warriors. What matters most is that he was given clearance to compete by his doctors.
"The shoulder is good," Edwards said last week. "The doctors have told us that the possibility of me reinjuring my shoulder — the same shoulder — are slim and none. The doctors and his team were the best that we could have had. I have total confidence and faith in them that everything will be all right."
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The return of the 5-foot-11, 185-pound, multithreat quarterback comes as the best news possible for new coach Brad Hasquin. It will be the Warriors' first season competing as an independent since leaving the Southwestern Conference.
It's good news for Edwards, too, because playing football again puts him back on the radar of college recruiters. He's already made an unofficial visit to Notre Dame and has drawn interest from Iowa, Clemson and Miami. Coaches from Iowa State are scheduled to visit this summer.
"I would say (Notre Dame) is on the top of my list right now ... but there is still time," Edwards said.
Hasquin, who was hired following the resignation of longtime coach Carl Luehmann, has worked with Edwards in the past as an assistant. He was a high school quarterback at Civic Memorial High School in Bethalto.
"We're getting 30-40 guys in for workouts on any given night, and I'm thinking we'll have 100 kids in the football program, which is up from what we've had," Hasquin said.
Edwards' return may have some influence on the renewed interest.
"He can throw the football as well as anybody. But what separates him is that because he is so elusive and fast, he can turn a five-yard gain into a big play at any time," Hasquin said.
As a freshman, Edwards ran for more than 1,100 yards and 19 touchdowns while throwing for nearly 500 yards and four scores. Granite City finished 4-5 in 2016.
Riding that momentum, the Warriors opened the 2017 season with wins over Carbondale and Jerseyville. Led by Edwards, who threw for seven touchdowns and 301 yards while rushing for another 431 yards and seven scores, Granite City generated 107 points in the first two weeks of the season.
But all that changed midway through a 43-14 SWC loss to Belleville East when Edwards, in the game as a defensive back, was injured while making a tackle. The Warriors didn't win another game.
"I remember when it happened and how much pain there was,'' Edwards recalled. "Then we got the results of the X-rays back and found out that I was going to miss the rest of the season ... Why did this have to happen to me? It was a very difficult thing for me to understand.
"But my parents and coaches just told me that everyone has obstacles to overcome; I had to be strong for my teammates and be a leader. Sometimes things happen that we don't understand, and this was one of those times."
Both Edwards and Hasquin say it's now time to move forward.
"The first few days this summer, we're going to do some refresher work on things he did and learned last year. Then we'll work on technique and take it from there," Hasquin said. "Freddy is healthy and when he's healthy he allows us to compete on almost any given night."