Felicia Edmunds had not met Frank Beamer in person before he sat down next to her on the hard, flat bleachers at a high school gymnasium in Danville, Va., and told her he wanted her son to play football at Virginia Tech.
They were at a basketball game watching Trey Edmunds, Felicia’s eldest, a hot-shot junior. It was early enough in the recruiting process that Beamer, the Hokies’ football coach at the time, hadn’t seen Trey play football in person yet, only on video. It was early enough in the Edmunds family’s relationship with Virginia Tech that Felicia’s younger sons, Terrell and Tremaine, were still in middle school.
And because it was still so early, Beamer felt the need to clarify: He told Felicia he wanted her sons at Virginia Tech — all three of them.
“Well, that was very exciting,” Felicia recalled, “and he stuck to his word. He came back.”
Six years later, Beamer’s trip to a high school basketball game has proved fruitful for current Hokies Coach Justin Fuente. Running back Trey Edmunds, 21, put in three seasons under Beamer before transferring to Maryland this season, while Terrell and Tremaine have become leaders on one of Virginia Tech’s best defenses in years. They will lead the No. 25 Hokies (5-2, 3-1) to Pittsburgh for a Thursday night game against the Panthers (5-2, 2-1) at Heinz Field.
“I think they have a chance to be very good players here,” Fuente said recently. “Time will tell what exactly that means. I’ve seen improvement in their games just in my short time here.”
A standout sophomore linebacker on a defense full of upperclassmen, Tremaine Edmunds is the 6-foot-5, 236-pound “baby boy,” as his father, Ferrell, a former Pro Bowl tight end in the NFL, calls him.
Not that the 18-year-old plays like a youngster. Tremaine leads his team with 11 tackles for loss and is second on the team with 54 tackles. He was named an ACC player of the week after recording a career-high 10 tackles in the Hokies’ win against Miami last Thursday.
He got to share conference honors with his big brother Terrell, a 19-year-old redshirt sophomore rover who had seven tackles and a drive-killing interception against Miami. Terrell, 6-2 and 210 pounds, is tied for the team lead with three interceptions and ranks fourth with 37 tackles.
The familial connection is most apparent to those who line up against them.
It’s a constant stream of muttered observation and instruction that helps the brothers work in tandem when, for example, they had to buttress a defensive line that was missing seniors Ken Ekanem and Nigel Williams against the Hurricanes.
“Anytime you get to play with someone you’ve been playing with your whole life, you kind of have that connection on the field, you have that bond,” Tremaine said. “You trust them, so you can just go out there and get your job done.”
That bond was what the Edmunds brothers were known for well before they started putting up big numbers at Virginia Tech.
The three Edmundses were the last set of 25 brothers Beamer coached in his 29 years in Blacksburg. They followed, notably, Michael and Marcus Vick and the Fuller brothers — Vinny, Corey, Kyle and Kendall — all of whom ended up in the NFL. Kendall Fuller plays for the Washington Redskins.
The Edmundses grew up playing sports together in Danville, where it became obvious that two athletic traits dominated their gene pool. The Edmundses were fast, thanks to Felicia, a standout hurdler at Southern Illinois in the 1980s, and the Edmundses knew football, thanks to Ferrell, a former standout at Maryland who played for Miami and Seattle in the NFL.
The boys loved baseball, basketball and track but started showing promise in football as teenagers. Ferrell was a coach at Dan River High School, and since his boys were in middle school he spent many hours after practice watching film with his sons and answering their questions.
By the time the brothers played for Ferrell in high school, they were quick studies on both sides of the ball.
“It’s a great honor to have your kids be athletic at all,” Ferrell said on the phone after watching Maryland beat Michigan State on Saturday. “Football was fun for me, but you never know if your kids are going to want to do what you do — in high school they were good in track and basketball. But then in football they started excelling, and it was like, ‘Man, okay, we might be able to do something with that.’ I just took it and ran with it.”
Terrell and Tremaine developed into high school stars just as Trey did — he was a Parade all-American his senior year. But when it came time to pick colleges, each brother was intent on making the decision independently. After years of visits to Blacksburg for Virginia Tech games, each of the three just happened to agree the Hokies were the best fit.
“I don’t really remember them always talking about the brothers they had at Virginia Tech on our visits,” Felicia said. “I remember them focusing solely on Tre. And then when Terrell was there it was solely on Terrell. And then when Tremaine was there it was solely on Tremaine. They never played the brother card, which is exactly what three brothers want.”
Individual attention was important to the two younger brothers, but for Tremaine, so were the people in Blacksburg he had spent years getting to know.
“I just really wanted to come here and play for those coaches. I had a good relationship with them,” Tremaine said. “Every time I came on campus it felt like home.”