From the bench to the big time
Photo: Video by IdahoOnYourSide.com
Most players follow a process as they climb up the football ranks. They go from peewee to middle school to high school... and most aren't good enough to progress any further than that.
Nick Edenfield has taken an entirely different path, and his football career appears closer to the beginning than the end.
The 6'4'', 270-pound lineman plays at Columbia High School, where he has amassed an impressive collection of nicknames.
"Nick is just a monster," exclaims Assistant Coach Lee Moore.
"Ginger, Big Red, Ginger Fireball, Superstar, Hollywood, Primo, Angry Redhead..." His teammates' monikers are a tad more abrasive, albeit jokingly. Besides- Nick seems alright with the teasing.
"I love the team sport," explains Edenfield. "It wouldn't be the same without the guys I'm playing with."
Nick's fellow Wildcats wouldn't be the same without him. Laughing off nicknames is just one of his strengths. Tossing around a 500-pound tractor tire is another.
"He flipped (the tire) every day over the summer. The tire was his baby," notes fellow-lineman Hayden Paul.
"We basically just Googled workouts for football players, for lineman," Nick laughs. He seems to think the fuss over his routine is unwarranted. "So we got the biggest tire we could find and just got a sledgehammer and started working out."
When he's not wailing on wheels, Nick plays both offensive and defensive line, rarely misses a down. He's earned respect from his teammates and attention from Division 1 schools. Getting recruited by big football programs is impressive, but the path Edenfield took to get to that point is even more so.
The Tallahassee, Florida native moved to Idaho 12 years ago. He'd never played a snap of football until he was a freshman. and was home schooled until his senior year. The transition to the classroom was fairly easy.
"You gotta wait for the rest of the class," chuckles Edenfield. "Home school, you're just by yourself, doing what you're doing and getting it done as fast as you can and moving on."
The transition to the gridiron wasn't as simple. Nick made it to Columbia's varsity team midway through his freshman year. Then in his sophomore season, Edenfield's grandmother came to Idaho from South Carolina to see him play.
"I think it was our third game," recollects line coach Darren Gossett. "We benched him. He just wasn't having good performance. His grandma showed up, it was a big deal, and he went home and moped. His grandma is old-school, and she said 'Are you gonna mope, or are you gonna do something about it?'"
Something changed in Nick.
"We played Wood River and he wasn't supposed to grab a guy this way, but he grabbed him by the neck and just slammed him to the ground," continues Gossett. "I'm cheering, and everyone is like 'You can't do that!' and I'm like, 'Well, we've been waiting for this attitude to show up.'"
Edenfield's newly developed mean streak payed dividends on the field, but his demeanor off the field remained docile.
"You couldn't ask for a better kid to coach. Yes sir, no sir, yes mam, no mam." Gossett and the rest of the Columbia staff noted that Nick lacks the hard-headedness of most teenage boys.
"That's definitely something I was raised with. Down South, that's a must, so I kind of carried that with me," Edenfield said with a smile.
"Everybody is different, but he's extraordinarily different in a good way," gushed Gossett. "He's the type of kid... You wouldn't care if he asked to marry your daughter. You'd say 'Yes,' just marry her. I'd say I don't know if I'll ever get another one to be able to coach that way."
Nick is being courted by a variety of Division 1 football programs including Air Force, North Carolina State, and Arkansas. Even the Ivy League schools are sending recruitment letters. Edenfield has made a verbal commitment to play at the University of Idaho- but has until National Signing Day in February to make a final decision.