ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – It’s true that there is plenty at stake for all of the 100-plus players at this week’s East-West Shrine Game.
It’s also true that few, if any, have more to prove than Fordham running back Chase Edmonds. Shaking the small-school stigma in itself is a big challenge, but Edmonds is also tasked with showing NFL scouts he’s healthy after an injury-plagued senior season.
“I think it was the hardest time in my life,” Edmonds said Tuesday after wrapping up practice with the East team at Shorecrest Preparatory School. “It was just so much adversity.”
Ankle and hamstring injuries derailed Edmonds’ senior season, which he entered with a good chance to become the all-time leading rusher in Football Championship Subdivision history. Needing 1,274 yards to break the record held by Georgia Southern’s Adrian Peterson, Edmonds finished with just 577 yards and five touchdowns in seven games. In his first three college seasons, he had never had less than 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns in any of them.
“I wasn't on the field for a long time, and then when I was on the field, I wasn't myself,” he said. “I was just trying to be there for my teammates and everything, but I learned to not make a bad day worse.”
Durability, then, is another test Edmonds must pass to prove himself a worthy NFL prospect.
“That's a question that's been coming up a lot,” he said. “The durability thing with missing a lot of my senior year. It's definitely let me grow as a player and as a man.”
NFL scouts have noticed. All 32 teams visited the Fordham campus at some point during his career, which he ended as the Patriot League’s all-time leading rusher with 5,862 yards and 67 touchdowns.
"I think he's positioned himself well," Fordham coach Andrew Breiner said late in the season in an interview with pennlive.com. "I think Chase has done everything possible, certainly everything inside his control, to put himself in the best position he can. … We've had area scouts, national scouts, directors of college scouting. He's gotten a lot of eyes on him, a lot of attention."
That has continued here this week, with Edmonds getting his first opportunity to go against players from some of college football’s elite programs.
“I think it's going pretty well,” he said. “I'm just trying to make the best of the opportunities that I get. Obviously we've got three backs and we want to push ourselves to get better. You've got to make the most of each rep you get. I was really eager to get out here with a higher level of competition and prove that I belong – that I can dominate just like I did at the FCS level.”
Edmonds landed at Fordham after a high school career in Harrisburg, Pa. – the same hometown of Bills star LeSean McCoy. Playing for CD East, he didn’t get much attention from big-time college programs because of his size – 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds. Make that another challenge to overcome.
“I believe that I'm stronger than I look,” he said. “At the combine hopefully I'll show my upper-body strength. I believe I have a good lower frame as well. I use my body the best I can to take major hits off me, slither through holes and things like that.”
Of course, there are plenty of examples of undersized running backs succeeding in the NFL. Edmonds points to the success of Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman – who is listed at nearly the exact same size – and the New England duo of Dion Lewis and James White as players who show it can be done.
“If they can do it, why can’t I?” he asked, rhetorically, Tuesday.
Edmonds entered this week ranked as the No. 20 running back in the 2018 class according to the website nfldraftscout.com, which projects him as a seventh-round pick. If that happens, he’d become just the second Fordham player since 1968 to be drafted, and only the 31st ever.
Sounds like another challenge to overcome.
Story topics: Shrine game