Out of the Blocks: Edwards transfers to CMU, becomes school’s only current football-track athlete

Dual-sport athletes have been waning in college athletics. They could be making a comeback on Central Michigan’s campus, partly because of Berkley Edwards.

Edwards is CMU's only student-athlete participating in two sports — football and track.

“So far, the relationship between track and football has been good,” said track Head Coach Mark Guthrie. “I never really was able to get anything going with Coach Enos. We will see how this goes and what (football Head Coach John Bonamego) thinks.”

Edwards, a Chelsea native, transferred to CMU from Minnesota before the spring semester. He competed as a Golden Gopher in his first three years of college, participating in both football as a running back and track before transferring to CMU. 

After this spring, he'll have two years of eligibility left for football and track.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Edwards cannot compete for the football team until 2017. In sports besides football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball, student-athletes can use a one-time transfer exception and be eligible immediately — which is why he has already started running for the CMU track team.

Whether or not a football player is eligible to play a second sport is up to the discretion of the football staff, as the football program is still responsible for the student-athlete’s scholarship.

“It can be done, but it’s a lot more difficult to execute than people give it credit for,” Bonamego said. “I’m not against it in any way shape or form. I think competition is good.”

Still, Bonamego said players on scholarship with football should put their main focus there, and then do other things if time allows.

“It really has to work for football,” Guthrie said. “We could have the world-record holder in the 100-meter (dash) here, but if football is unwilling to share that athlete, then we are out. The ball is in their court because they control the financial aspect of it.”

Bonamego played multiple sports himself in high school before coming to CMU as a wide receiver on the football team.

“I learned a lot about myself as a high school athlete in wrestling,” he said. “You’re the only person out there, it’s one-on-one, there’s nowhere to hide. It takes a certain mindset and a certain level of confidence to go out and compete in a sport like that. I think that’s healthy and it’s really good.”

Coming out of high school, Edwards was rated the No. 63 running back in the nation and the No. 15 overall prospect in the state of Michigan, per ESPN.

As a track athlete, he was a state champion in the 100 and 200-meter dash. He also was a part of the winning 4x100 meter relay team at the Junior Olympics in 2013.

Career at Minnesota

At Minnesota, Edwards redshirted during his freshman season in 2013. During his first active season, Edwards rushed 30 times in 12 games for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 24 yards.

In his second season, he rushed five times for 29 yards in two games. It was this reduction in playing time that led to Edwards’ transfer to CMU.

“I played more when I was younger. Last year, I just didn’t play at all so I had to make a change,” Edwards said. “I have aspirations to make it to the next level. I want to be able to have the best opportunity I can to play and be able to show what I can do on the field.”

After the 2014 season, Edwards obtained a release letter from Minnesota, which granted CMU, Eastern Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State permission to contact him.

CMU recruited Edwards out of high school, so the campus was familiar to him. His younger brother Bailey committed to CMU as a wide receiver on Feb. 3.

Their older brother, Braylon, was a wide receiver at Michigan and was drafted third overall in the NFL draft. Braylon also participated in track at Michigan.

“I got an offer from (CMU) coming out of high school and I remembered the campus,” Edwards said. “They were also recruiting my brother, so I already had a pretty good relationship with the staff and I knew it was a good school. I feel like CMU was the best fit for me to be able to help out the team, football and track.”

Transitioning to CMU

Edwards obtained his release to compete from Minnesota in January. Since then, he has competed in six track meets for CMU — four indoor meets and two outdoor.

During the indoor season, the short-sprint specialist made it to the Mid-American Conference Championship in the 60-meter dash. He finished seventh with a time of 6.88 seconds.

So far during the outdoor season, Edwards has a season-best mark of 10.87 in the 100-meter dash, accomplished at the Gibson Invitational at Indiana State on April 9. He needs to improve his time by 0.2 seconds to qualify for the MAC Championships in the event.

“Indoor was kind of hard because I was out of shape since I didn’t do much of anything last year for football,” Edwards said. “Now, I’m in a little bit better shape but I’ve only been able to practice a couple times a week because I’ve been with football as well.”

With football, Edwards has been primarily acquainting himself with the playbook and his new teammates during spring practices.

“Spring is just going to be a feeling out period for him, just as far as getting in reps and knowing what to do,” said Running Backs Coach Gino Guidugli. “Once we get into fall camp and he has a grasp on the playbook, you’re going to see a totally different player.”

Edwards still has to adhere to the 20-hour rule, meaning he has to split his 20 hours of time with coaches between track and football. He had to miss Saturday’s Oakland Invite, as he played in the spring football game and had four carries for seven yards.

Bonamego said Edwards will have a role in the running game and kicking game once he’s eligible to play, citing Edwards’ “straight-line speed” as his biggest asset.

Life as a dual-sport athlete

Where others may find the situation and expectations stressful, Edwards said he thrives in it.

“Now, it is a little bit harder than it was at (Minnesota), just because I’m getting acclimated to the surroundings, everybody and everything,” Edwards said. “But I’ve been doing it all my life.”

The added workload on Edwards’ body could bring added concern of an increased risk of injury. However, Edwards isn’t worried.

“I don’t worry about injury much,” Edwards said. “I know there’s a line you have to draw when you’re doing too much, but I’m able to communicate with both coaches and tell them maybe this is too much or I’m doing fine and we can add more. It’s really the least of my worries.”

Edwards believes doing both sports has made him a better all-around athlete and said more people should participate in multiple sports.

“I definitely think track helps me with football and football helps me with track,” Edwards said. “Back in the day, people used to be two-sport athletes all the time, or even three-sport athletes. Just doing one sport can increase the risk of injury doing one sport all year long. Being able to be versatile and do two sports can help.”

This sentiment is mirrored by Guthrie, a coach for 42 years — including three years at CMU.

“We’ve become so specific when it comes to what we ask these kids to do,” Guthrie said. “The best athletes I’ve ever had have been two-sport athletes. If you go back and look at the SEC, specifically Tennessee, for a long time had a rich, rich tradition in football and track athletes at a world-class level.”

Sports Editor Taylor DesOrmeau contributed to this article.