The Beautiful Mind of Chase Edmonds, Part I: 'I was scared shitless’
Miami hasn't won a playoff game since 2000? That can change in 2022 (really!) because of the team's new top running back. Everything Edmonds has been through created a mind unlike any in the NFL.
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This is the first of a three-part profile on Chase Edmonds, the Miami Dolphins running back who just may change everything we think we know about the AFC this 2022 season. As we detail, his mind operates at a completely different level. It’s no coincidence, either. In Part I, Edmonds relives the news that rocked his world at 18 years of age.
DAVIE, Fla. — Each rep plants a seed of belief. Real belief. Venture right into this South Florida gym and it’s impossible to not get jacked about these 2022 Miami Dolphins because of this starting running back before you. Chase Edmonds is in the midst of a workout so intense, so hyperactive that he’s borderline amphibious. His entire torso is encased in a layer of sweat.
He’s hip-thrusting a barbell. He’s balancing on one foot with a medicine ball, tilting his chest parallel with the floor. He’s springing side to side on his outside foot, as far as he can jolt.
Beads of perspiration fly in all directions.
Five words max are spoken for an hour straight.
If the Dolphins do shock the world this season and contend for a Super Bowl, this dim, humid corner of PER4ORM sure looks and sounds and smells like a laboratory that made it happen. We have all justifiably obsessed over names like Russ and Davante and Deshaun and Tyreek in the AFC. They’re the studs. The All-Pros. But right here is the chiseled 5-foot-9, 202-pound plot twist with seven percent body fat.
Rap blares in his ears — Lil Durk to be exact. Inspirational quotes and 8x10 photos of pros who’ve trained here scatter the walls. Trainer Zac Cardone, a similarly built block of granite, tracks every movement closely. Players always think it’s easy tipping forward with that medicine ball, he explains. It’s not. If your form’s off just a smidge…timber. You’re collapsing. Edmonds, of course, is statuesque. And focused. “My boy is in the zone right now,” Cardone says. Ask what’s most impressive about this client and the trainer’s eyes widen as if we’re in the presence of a mythical creature. “Look at those hams,” he says. Zero in more closely and… holy. The hamstrings of Chase Edmonds are the size of beer kegs.
“It’s his time to shine,” Cardone adds. “He knows it is.”
Gold cross around his neck, Edmonds scowls and sculpts and can make the most skeptical of Dolphin skeptics imagine a path to legit contention. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fine. You’ve heard this story before. You’re currently embarking on an odyssey to retrieve the eyeballs that rolled to the back of your head because it’s also objectively true that we’ve seen this sad tale play out before. Hope emanating from South Florida is proven to be nothing but a tantalizing siren song that leads all to torment. Believers have paddled on toward this shipwreck for 21 years. That’s how long it’s been since Miami won a playoff game. Only the Detroit Lions (30 years) have gone longer without a playoff win.
First, the Dolphins supermarket sweep their way through March with one of the league’s richest free agent classes. Typically, there’s a headliner acquisition. A Daunte Culpepper, Mike Wallace, Ndamukong Suh, Tyreek Hill. Whoever’s been ushered in as the new head coach offers fresh ideas that convince diehards that whoever’s under center is the team’s long-lost heir to Dan Marino. The games begin and… reality spears the Dolphins directly through the heart. By the time next spring rolls around, the front office is scrambling to undo many of those contracts, the quarterback is exiled, draft picks have busted out, Darius Rucker cries, and — who knows — maybe even the head coach who failed to get you over the hump is suing the team.
And it’s back to starting over.
Once again, it’s easy to mock the Dolphins as silly imposters stumbling into the same trap, but they are not. This team can be different because Chase Edmonds is different. Chase Edmonds can alter the course of the organization because the turbulence he has experienced mirrors the franchise’s pain. All tectonic changes to his life. All heartbreak. All tears forged a mind unlike anyone at his position. Edmonds is a physical marvel in the weight room, but it’s not those bulging hamstrings alone that can warp everything we think we know about this AFC. Edmonds brings a perspective to Miami and it’s that perspective that’ll produce a magnificent payoff.
The day before this workout, Edmonds sat down with Go Long right at Dolphins HQ. With Hard Rock Stadium serving as the literal backdrop through a glass window, Edmonds takes a moment to daydream. He imagines what this offense will resemble, how all of this raw speed will pretzel the limbs of helpless defenders. He isn’t shy when it comes to his impact. He declares himself the smartest running back in the NFL and knows his brains make him a perfect fit for one of the league’s brainiest playcallers. Granted, Edmonds wants to “limit expectations.” Especially after seeing how looking too far ahead came back to bite his Arizona Cardinals in the ass. He won’t do that again. But even then, it’s impossible for Edmonds to mask his jubilation. He assures the team has absolutely discussed the fact that nobody here has won a playoff game since 2000. It was only one season prior that Dan Marino retired.
“It’s been long,” Edmonds says. “so we’re just trying to come in and do something elite, something different for this city.”
He likes the fact that these Dolphins still reside a tier or two… or three… below the alleged favorites. DraftKings pegs Miami’s Super Bowl odds at +4000, good for 18th of 32 teams. Nobody’s declaring this group a true contender.
“That’s the best thing,” he adds, “to be forgotten about.”
Edmonds says this with a grin that curls into a smirk, as if he knows something we do not.
The more he speaks, the more it’s obvious his own journey is what will harden these Dolphins for the AFC gauntlet that awaits. And no way could Edmonds have ever imagined emitting such swag — an NFL stadium behind him — back in high school when his world was effectively rocked or college when he was certifiably depressed his senior year at Fordham University.
Head coach Mike McDaniel doesn’t pick captains in Miami. It’s on the players. Once the 53-man roster is set, all 53 players will cast a vote.
Chase Edmonds is well aware, too. He wants that “C” stitched across his chest. He wants the responsibility of the Miami Dolphins going as far as he takes them. Any pressure that comes with ending that 21-year drought is nothing compared to what ran through his mind that day in June of 2014.
A text message would not suffice. Neither would a phone call. This information was going to change Chase Edmonds’ life forever so this information was delivered to the 18-year-old face-to-face at a friends’ house.
“In,” he adds, “the most dramatic way you can think of.”
Edmonds was all of one month removed from high school graduation… walking down a long hallway… with zero clue why he was summoned here. Another adult was present. Awkwardness filled the air. Five seconds of silence felt more like five hours. In his head, Edmonds wondered: What the hell is going on? And after making a left turn, there it was on a table.
A pregnancy test. It was positive. He wasn’t dating the baby’s mother. This just sort of… happened. He was a father.
The chill up his spine he could never forget. Edmonds panicked and froze and a flurry of thoughts raced through his mind. First, he knew he was the father. There was no doubt about that. And the best way he can describe the paralyzing feeling in that moment is for all to picture a horror movie when the villian appears from behind a bush. From your couch, you scream “Run!” to the prey. You don’t understand why the person is just standing there in pale shock.
Now, he certainly does. That’s precisely how he felt that day.
“I was scared shitless. Time froze for me. Like, ‘Wow. This is happening.’”
Edmonds grabbed a few blinks of sleep that restless night and called his older sister the next day to unburden himself, to calm down. Morgan’s advice was to chat with Mom before Dad because Mom would definitely take this news better. He agreed. A day or so later, it was time. He slowly walked downstairs into the basement and entered the laundry room. Call it a mother’s intuition. Call it outright mind-reading. Alison Edmonds always possessed a sixth sense she calls “uncanny.” If something was on one of her two kids’ mind, she knew exactly what it was. “Maybe,” she ponders, “I was touched by God. Or had ESP.” Chase never explored this region of their Harrisburg, Pa., home — not to say he was hungry, not to say he was leaving — so his presence alone was a giveaway. As far as Alison could tell, there was only one reason Chase would initiate a conversation here. The laundry room might as well be a forbidden forest.
“For something to bring him into that laundry room,” Allison adds, “it had to be absolutely the last thing you want to reveal to somebody. For him to find where I was and come down the stairs and come into the laundry room? This is going to be something earth-shattering.”
As Mom loaded the washer, she told her son he didn’t need to say a word. She already knew.
Chase verbalized that “earth-shattering” news, anyways, and Alison does not recall anything abnormal about his expression. He wasn’t happy, sad, angry. He was still shocked — only shocked — because he knew this was something she had warned him about. Due dates? Trimesters? Doctor appointments? This was all a foreign language to a kid set to attend Fordham University.
There’s the prospect of a linebacker teeing off on your diminutive frame in the “A” gap.
Then, there’s this. Life. Bringing a child into the world.
Thinking back to this hail storm at such a critical stage of his life, Chase exhales. His eyebrows pop upward. He remembers his mother taking everything in-stride. This was his “sidekick,” after all. As for his relationship with the baby’s mother today, it’s cordial. “Smooth sailing,” he assures. But obviously, back then, the state of affairs was rocky for two teenagers. Edmonds is very cognizant of how sensitive the abortion topic is in America today but — for him — he says becoming a father in that moment was never a “decision.” Even with the worst possible timing. The child’s mother still had a full year of high school to go and all Chase was trying to do was turn a football dream into a reality.
He embraced it all, refused to look back and, honestly? That’s all this whole football thing was then.
A dream. Nothing more.
Despite a dynamite career at Central Dauphin East High School — he produced 2,378 total yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior — Edmonds generated zero interest from FBS college football teams. Oh, he prayed. Every night, Edmonds literally bowed his head and prayed for an FBS offer and those prayers went unanswered. Options low, he settled on a school that had all of two players drafted into the NFL since the 1950s: Fordham. The final kick to the groin was not even receiving an invite to the state of Pennsylvania’s “Big 33 Football Classic,” a snub that rendered Edmonds a puddle of tears in his mother’s lap. Eventually selected as a replacement, he promptly was named the MVP of the all-star game.
Reflecting back, Edmonds thanks God for this all because it forced him to work — “for everything,” he punctuates. From Day 1 on campus, he knew he didn’t belong with this subpar caliber of college talent. He was better than everyone.
All he remembers is stepping onto campus determined to outwork every single person around him.
“I worked my ass off,” Edmonds says. “I always told myself that I had the hardest work ethic there.”
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True, there never was a speck of surrender to his make-up. His own father made sure of that when Chase was 5. His first day of football practice, Chase was creamed. He returned home with tears in his eyes and told his parents he wanted to quit. Instead of giving his boy a shoulder to cry on, Reginald informed Chase he would not be quitting. Because when you start something in life, he explained, “you finish it.” Chase held onto those three words forever. From age 5 on, he never played flag football. He was in full pads. Always pads. Through youth football, Alison thought Reginald was too hard on their son — and let him know in private — but, thinking back, she admits it’s this tough love that likely made Chase so eternally hungry. If Chase rushed for 100 yards in a Pop Warner game, his father would point out the specific cut left, instead of right, that would’ve gotten him to 110 yards. Or why a stiff-arm would’ve worked instead of a spin.
His critiques were so detailed because at these Pop Warner games Reginald volunteered to work for the chain crew. He could track his son’s every step from the sideline.
“As a mother, I’d say he was being hyper-critical,” says Alison. “It may not have been hyper-critical at all. It was one factor that made him go even farther. He was in the game thinking about something his Dad pointed out.”
If Dad instilled the work ethic, Mom supplied the smarts. Mom was what Chase calls the “nerd” of the family. No wonder she wanted him to take his scholarship offer from Villanova University. Chase was interested in physical education and, whereas ‘Nova had renowned physical therapy and athletic training programs, Fordham was known for business, for law. Edmonds liked what the Fordham football coaches were selling — he’d have a chance to play right away — and made his own choice. He grasped the odds, too. He knew he’d need to work ten times harder than any running back at Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State simply to have a Hail Mary shot at the NFL.
All while his head was admittedly “spinning.”
The academic curriculum at Fordham was no joke. The playbook was complex. NYC? A zoo. Everything felt so… so… uncomfortable. Yet, Edmonds did have one distinctive advantage over nearly all 18-year-olds playing college football. He was going to be a Dad. He needed to make it for his daughter, Avery. That feeling of utter shock was gone by the time he strapped on the pads in the Bronx. Now, he was in “survival mode.” Now, he was “all business.” As a freshman, he didn’t try to make any friends. All he cared about was asserting himself as the alpha male in the room. He knew in real time that this sport could provide for Avery. So, football became what he calls his “grace period.”
When Edmonds stepped onto a field, all problems and all stress evaporated into the atmosphere.
In Game No. 2, he finished with minus-5 yards on nine carries in a 50-6 loss to Villanova. But Game No. 3? Edmonds cannon-blasted through Rhode Island’s defense 22 times for 231 yards with four touchdowns. That point forward, he was a man amongst boys because domination alone would not be enough. Edmonds needed to embarrass… no, decimate… no, completely toast 11 bodies in his dust to warrant the eyeballs and head space of NFL scouts. And he did. His first three seasons, he rolled to seasons of 1,838, 1,648 and 1,799 rushing yards with an asinine 62 touchdowns. Against Lafayette, Edmonds set an FCS record by averaging 21.1 yards per carry. It’s a miracle those Leopards didn’t relegate their football program to intramural status after this human bullet shredded them for 359 rushing yards on 17 attempts.
“My first three years of college,” Edmonds says, “went absolutely perfect for me.”
All along, he did everything in his power to connect with Avery. The team’s quarterback, Kevin Anderson, vividly remembers holding Avery himself when she was 10 weeks old. He recalls Chase always finding a way to FaceTime her when they were apart, too. Didn’t matter if it was 8:30 at night after practice. Avery even got to the Bronx for a few games and would stay right there at their college pad. The crew would all gather together as a family to watch cartoons in the morning. No, Chase didn’t get to see his daughter nearly as much as he would’ve liked but if Fordham played at a school near his hometown, he was allowed to stay back for the weekend.
This teenage father already possessed what Anderson describes as a “professional mindset.” But Avery took it to a new level.
“Having to provide for her,” Anderson says, “definitely turned the knob up and then just broke the knob. It was already all the way it could go.”
Up close, Edmonds body and mind were both rare. Later in life, Edmonds would go viral for a weightless hamstring curl so surreal, so extraterrestrial that it almost looks fake. He’s able to descend to the ground from his knees and pull himself up by his hamstrings alone. But this was the type of stunt Anderson remembers Edmonds pulling off all the time at Fordham. The 5-9 back would strap five massive chains around his neck for weighted squats and do 15 reps when everyone else was lucky to do one or two. Freakish strength that fed what Anderson labels “freak of nature” cutting ability.
Take one look at Edmonds in street clothes and, eh. You see a small fella with a narrow waist. He appears easy to tackle. Intimidating as a pharmacist. But his quads? Massive. “Saquon-style,” Anderson adds. That’s what allowed Edmonds to pinball off defenders who had 50 pounds on him.
And it was always the vision that popped to Anderson. Edmonds understood that running the football was all about “chip… chip… chip… home run.” He very rarely took negative carries because he wasn’t trying to recklessly bounce plays wide. Rather, he’d stick with his read, humbly accept his two-yard gain and patiently wait for a game-changing moment to explode for 70, 80, 90 yards. Broadcasters liberally regurgitate the term “vision” on TV but — after teaming up with Edmonds — Anderson learned that vision is far, far more than a nice cutback. It’s understanding what types of runs are called on what downs and distances. It’s mastering the bigger picture.
His running style is rooted in setting up a defense up — with intelligence.
Even though Edmonds was a human cheat code, he found ways to remain the underdog, too.
As a sophomore, he was introduced to FIFA by Anderson. And Anderson, who had played this classic soccer video game his entire life, effortlessly skunked his pal 4-zip, 5-zip, 6-zip, all while talking copious amounts of shit with each triumph. Anger mounted. So, into that following summer, Edmonds made his friend a promise. He would buy the game, play it every damn day, return to school and whup his ass. That summer, Edmonds played FIFA every day after training. Not only that. He started studying videos on YouTube to develop his own style as a player, which was to swiftly hot-potato the ball upfield with quick passes. He mastered long shots on net. His dribbling? Sublime. He made the beautiful game look downright exquisite in the pixelated form.
Upon returning to the Bronx, the two gathered ‘round a TV and the tables completely turned. Edmonds demolished Anderson… game after game after game. Neither was allowed to play with the same country. Instead, they followed “three random” protocol. That is, each hit “random” three times on the controller and could choose from those three countries. It never mattered who Edmonds picked.
“Again, I never played FIFA in my life,” Edmonds says. “I was a Madden and 2K player. But I got obsessed with being the best at whatever it was that I was doing.”
It got so bad that Anderson once punched the drawer in the room and wanted to fight him.
“Because I was embarrassing him,” Edmonds says. “He really wanted to fight.”
Anderson remains flabbergasted.
“It’s a testament to who he is as a person,” says Anderson, who runs his own QB academy in South Florida these days and recently tried out for the XFL. “He will outwork you. He will grind and grind until he knows something cold. That’s just who he is. It doesn’t matter what it is. If it’s arts and crafts. If it’s Xbox. If it’s being the best running back he can possibly be. You name it. He’s going to understand that you have to learn something before you’re good at it. You learn it. You process it. And then you practice it. I think it stems from his mom who is super smart like that as well. Understand it. Practice it. That’s what he grew up with. It turned him into a monster competitor.”
The last Fordham running back drafted into the NFL was a man named Larry Higgins in 1951, and he was selected in the 21st round.
But so what? Edmonds was taking a blow torch to the record books. The surest way to get noticed by the NFL was to rush for more yards than anyone in college football history. Leave zero doubt. After three flawless seasons, the NFL appeared to be a guarantee into his 2017 senior season. Edmonds was only 1,275 rushing yards shy of the FCS mark held by Georgia Southern’s Adrian Peterson (the other “AP”) and only 1,113 from passing Ron Dayne’s FBS record. History beckoned. He would force everyone to know his name. Agents were calling. Scouts were working Fordham into their northeast swings. Edmonds still remembers Bleacher Report naming him one of the nation’s top 10 running backs that fall. Word on the street was that the league viewed him as a third-round prospect.
With one volcanic eruption, hell, he’d go even higher than that.
Anything was possible.
Then, his world came crashing down.