BLACKSBURG, Va. — Trey Edmunds walked into a Virginia Tech athletics office last week, about to fulfill his latest interview request, when someone brought up his father.
Turns out one of the school’s employees knew Ferrell Edmunds in high school and wanted to remind Trey that before his father became Dan Marino’s security blanket in the NFL, he also was one of the best baseball players the southside of Virginia has ever seen.
“Is that so,” Trey Edmunds said, rubbing his chin in thought. “He does talk about baseball a lot.”
The legend of Ferrell Edmunds comes up even more back home in the Danville, Va., area, Trey said.
But the redshirt freshman running back is used to the stories by now, ready with a smile when strangers tell him they still idolize his father. After all, Edmunds’s nickname — he has been called “Trey” since before he can remember — comes from his birth name, Ferrell Edmunds III.
On Saturday, when Virginia Tech begins its season against two-time defending national champion Alabama, the spotlight will be on senior quarterback Logan Thomas and his quest to rebound from a disappointing 2012 campaign.
But as Coach Frank Beamer put it this week, “It’s the people around Logan that’s the real issue.” And much of that anxiety stems from the potential — and uncertainty — surrounding Trey Edmunds, who has yet to take a snap in a college game.
Virginia Tech’s newest starting running back has dealt with those sorts of expectations his entire life.
“It kind of felt like I had to play football,” Edmunds said. “It’s not that you felt obligated to play football, but then again, why wouldn’t you want to play? Why wouldn’t you want to follow in his footsteps? Why wouldn’t you want to become the same person he was? I always wanted to do what he did and achieve the same things.”
Ferrell Edmunds, 48, describes himself as “a guy who loves to break down film.” So after dinner on most nights, his family — Trey has two younger brothers: Terrell, a high school senior who has given an oral commitment to Virginia Tech, and Tremaine, a junior in high school — would crowd around the television set and watch highlights from his days as an all-conference tight end at Maryland and a two-time Pro Bowler with the Miami Dolphins.
Ferrell would tell his sons that football is about anticipating what comes next, reminding them that “you’re only as good as your next play.” They were lessons he only realized after his career ended and he returned to Ringgold, Va., to serve the community as a foster parent and coach the Dan River High football team.
Often, though, the film sessions broke down into friendly arguments between Ferrell and Felecia Edmunds over who could run faster. Felecia was a track and field star at Southern Illinois before meeting her husband in Miami.
Ferrell said Trey is the best of both worlds.
“What Trey got that I ain’t have, I was just raw. I could run. I could jump. I could do all that. But Trey got me coaching him,” Ferrell Edmunds said. “I didn’t have someone constantly on me, because I thought at an early age that talent was everything. Trey uses less energy than I used because he understands the game better.
“His greatest strength is his mind. That’s the beauty of Trey.”
Trey was so bright as a youngster and scored so high on intelligence tests that Felecia Edmunds had him skip kindergarten.
He didn’t turn 18 until two days after Virginia Tech’s win over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl last season.
Throughout the Hokies’ disappointing 2012 campaign, in which a quarterback (Thomas) led the team in rushing, running backs coach Shane Beamer often discussed whether to burn Edmunds’s redshirt. He knew Edmunds was the best option on the roster just from the praise he garnered while playing with the scout team.
Ultimately, though, Edmunds never touched the field in a real game in 2012.
But unlike many Parade all-Americans, especially one who rushed for more than 2,500 yards as a high school senior, Edmunds had no problem sitting out. He understood it was necessary.
“I don’t think redshirting frustrated me or undermined me. When I came in, the game was fast for me,” said Edmunds, snapping his fingers for effect. “The scrimmages, training camp, everything was just going so fast, and you really didn’t have a chance to sit back and learn. But taking that year off, I was able to get better in the weight room and better on the field and in the meeting room and just being able to learn football more.”
How Edmunds translates that knowledge to the season remains something of a mystery. Beamer marvels at Trey’s combination of size and speed — he’s listed at 6 feet 1 and 216 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds this offseason — but also is quick to call him “raw.”
New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has likened Edmunds’s running style to a “bull in a china shop.”
Edmunds, who also played linebacker in high school, calls the running back position “electrifying,” although he refuses to tout any individual goals like the last great Virginia Tech tailback, David Wilson, another Danville area product.
Last week, as he cleaned up Dan River’s musty locker room that also serves as a weight room, Ferrell couldn’t walk two steps without hearing about Trey. Is he going to start? Will he be able to rush for as many yards as he did at Dan River? Do you have any extra tickets to the Alabama game?
The questions made Ferrell Edmunds pause for a second and ponder what it all meant. As his legend fades, a new one has begun to sprout.
“The boy’s got a chance,” he said.
Hokies note: Hokies starting tight end Ryan Malleck will miss the season after suffering a labral tear in his left shoulder in practice Aug. 20. The Hokies also listed running back J.C. Coleman and offensive lineman Mark Shuman as questionable for Saturday’s game.