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The Beautiful Mind of Chase Edmonds, Part II: 'It’s over for me'
He was set to smash the NCAA rushing record. He'd give the NFL zero choice but to take notice. And then? One ankle injury sent the running back spiraling into a dark, dark place. Our series continues.
Miss Part I of this series? Catch up right here.
Long before he was sweating inside a gym, plotting an NFL takeover, Chase Edmonds was an emotional wreck.
He walked a daily trail of depression.
Here’s how it worked his senior year at Fordham University.
This was the Bronx so his off-campus apartment was gated. He’d first need to flash his Student ID to the security guard to get in. Upon entering his unit — the one on the first floor, to the right — Edmonds then sauntered about 15 steps inside to get to his bedroom. He closed the door shut. He kept the lights off. He started to pray. “Why me?” he asked God. “Why now?” Finally, Edmonds blasted music over a speaker. No song, no artist in particular. He hit shuffle and only played music to drown out another sound.
His own tears. He didn’t want his three roommates to hear him.
When everyone was gone, he’d turn that music down, phone Mom and cry some more.
Actually, this was more than a cry, too. Edmonds was wailing… weeping… “like a girl,” he adds. Alison Edmonds tried to keep her son’s spirits up. “God’s not finished with you yet,” she’d tell him exactly as she did back in high school after that initial Big 33 omission. Three years of sacrifice and dominance and defying the odds to put himself in the improbable position to play professional football, and this was his reward? It was cruel.
With one nagging ankle injury, it felt like his football career was officially over.
He knew damn well his margin for error was minuscule to begin with and — suddenly — Edmonds felt like a completely different running back.
That senior season, in 2017, he admits he was depressed. Extremely depressed.
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The downward spiral began in Week 1 when Edmonds injured his glute in a 64-6 liquidation of a loss to Army. He should’ve sat out a week or two. Hell, he knew in the moment he should’ve sat out. Obsessed with breaking the NCAA rushing record, though, he played the very next week against Central Connecticut and rolled his ankle bad. “Really, really bad” after losing his balance on a outside-zone wide. He didn’t need surgery and he had never turned either ankle before but, nonetheless, that ankle refused to heal. Remember, this wasn’t exactly ‘Bama. He didn’t have access to state-of-the-art facilities and trainers. Hardly. He iced the ankle and did little else.
Edmonds missed two games, returned to face Yale, and reaggravated the ankle.
A shell of himself, he averaged 3.2 yards per carry the next two weeks.
Forget the record. His future in the sport was in jeopardy.
“I remember it just all hit me — ‘Man, bro, it’s over for me. I don’t have any film. I can’t play. I don’t look right. Nobody’s calling me. Nobody’s giving me any type of attention saying they still believe in me,’” Edmonds says. “So I just felt like — being at Fordham — ‘Damn, bro, they’re going to forget about me. This is how it’s going to end. I’m going to be a three-time All American and not even get to the league.’”
Poof, just like that, his name was disappearing in thin air. Agents stopped calling. When he scoured the web, his name stopped showing up on lists highlighting the ’18 draft class. Chase Edmonds was another running back banished in the FCS kiddie pool.
“There are a lot of those guys,” he says. “College is one thing. But how someone evaluates you for the next level is completely different and sometimes it’s out of your control.”
This period of darkness is seared in his memory. Throughout our conversation, Edmonds’ mind races back to that bedroom, to what he dubs the lowest point of his life.
“I felt like my world was crashing down,” he continues. “Crying. By myself. Lights off, in the dark, just crying.”
Feeding the depression was the fact that there was absolutely nothing Edmonds could do about it. Zilch. Up to that point, he was in control. He was authoring an immaculate collegiate career. Now, he was a different back. Not only was Fordham an FCS school. It’s a relatively benign FCS school. One bad season — popped tire or not — could signal to the entire NFL that this back who tore up the Patriot League wasn’t even worth a spot on a 90-man camp roster. Avery was 3 years old now. The prospect of playing for any of the 32 teams felt…. “grim,” he says, despondently.
Praying helped. He hammered his faith daily.
More than anything, Edmonds needed ears. That’s all. He needed to vent, to cry.
To his best friends back in Harrisburg, Raekwon Purdy and Eric Scott.
To his mother. To his sister. To Kevin Anderson, his college QB.
“It’s important for men to reveal themselves and be vulnerable to one another,” Edmonds says. “I was letting this shit out and letting somebody else hear it.”
Alison can still hear the trembling anguish in her son’s voice. He had worked so hard. He knew rushing for more yards than any player ever would get him into the league. “And to catch what he felt was a devastating injury in the midst of all this?” she adds. “It was hard. It’s hard to see your son hurt emotionally. I’ve never seen him so distraught — over anything — as that.” Consider the journey to this point. After Edmonds decided to show up for the next day of practice back at age 5, after wanting to quit, he started telling Mom and Dad he was going to the NFL. As a parent hearing her five-, her 10-, her 12-, her 14-year-old growing boy dream like this, Alison smiled and nodded. She told him he could do anything he wants like any good mother would. However, all along, even Mom knew damn well the odds were practically impossible. Hence, her emphasis on education.
Miraculously, Chase made the dream real.
Until the ankle.
Mom’s comforting voice certainly helped. So did all of the conversations with Anderson. One specifically. At the Lombardi Center on campus, shortly after Edmonds received the ankle diagnosis, quarterback and running back sat down to spill their guts for 30 minutes. Edmonds completely broke down. He knew dropping from the third round… to the fourth… to undrafted free agency… to possibly a totally new profession was also costing him millions of dollars. Not ideal as a young father. Further, the 2017 season should’ve been this duo’s coronation. Instead, the two best friends played all of three games together. Three freshmen were starting on the offensive line. The Rams’ best receiver, Austin Longi, missed four games. Fordham finished 4-7.
That specific day, Anderson followed Edmonds into the breezeway, sat down, hugged him and let his pal weep.
Edmonds remembers this being the first time he talked to someone about his feelings other than his mother.
Then there was his sister. To this day, Edmonds has the long text from Morgan saved in the Notes app on his phone. When Morgan heard from Mom that her baby bro was hurting, she reached out. She’s a psychologist, too. She knew how to talk to people going through hard times and, honestly, Morgan was going through a rough patch herself. The message was heartfelt. Through the five years since — any time he’s down — Chase opens up his phone, re-reads this text and presses on.
“It reminds me of where I was,” Edmonds says, “and where I am now.”
During one of our conversations, Edmonds taps that Notes app open and reads a chunk of the Sept. 26, 2017 text from his sister aloud:
“Hey, Chase. Mom is worried about you, so obviously I am, too. She asked me to call and cheer you up and I told her I would try. But to be honest, I am just as miserable as you are. So we can commiserate. Right now, everything sucks. I have nothing I want or pray for. I’m single. I’m lonely in Arizona. And worst of all, I have to work long days. I go to church and pray but it seems like God has forgotten about me. I was OK with that for years because you were excelling. I told God that if I have to be miserable for Chase to excel, so be it. I would trade my happiness for you to have all your dreams come true in a second. However, it seems right now I have nothing and you are hurting. So I’m mad at God — mad that you work so hard and stay so humble — and yet, somehow, he is allowing all the adversity to enter your life. And I can’t help you. I hate this. And I also know that God does not forsake his children, even when things seem bleak. So I keep praying… to remind myself that everything has a season and our season of prosperity is coming. Both of us. So know that I love you more than anything and, right now, I’m not happy either. But that does not stop us. We are the most resilient and favored people I know. Our blessings are coming baby brother.”
Those words gave him a little more strength.
He once again valued his parents’ balance, the fact that his father supplied a totally different energy. Reginald bluntly reminded Chase that nobody felt bad for him.
And Edmonds also thought back to one of his Philosophy classes at this Jesuit university. One day, the professor asked students to prove the existence of God. What Edmonds learned is that God is proven through the actual “thought” of Him because, as mortal beings, we cannot comprehend how to visualize an immortal being. “A higher power,” he says, “that can tap into certain things that we as human beings cannot tap into.” It clicked. It was deep. No, Edmonds never did have an alternate career plan at Fordham and we both agree college is a sham. But if Edmonds holds one lesson near and dear to his heart? This is it. This assured him his prayers weren’t getting lost in the mail.
Fordham kept on losing and, with the season effectively lost, coaches allowed Edmonds to rest his ankle for a full three weeks. That was always Mom’s advice. She told Chase that if NFL scouts saw defenders hawking him down from behind, such sluggish footage would be more damaging than actually missing games. “This is your career,” she emphasized. He decided to hit pause and prepared for Fordham’s final two contests against Holy Cross and Bucknell that essentially served as a pair of personal Super Bowls. With Anderson sidelined, both defenses would undoubtedly stack the box to shut him down. This was his final hurrah. This was his last chance to prove to the world he’s the same runner from ’14, ’15 and ’16.
A career was at stake.
His anxiety should’ve shot through the roof.
And honestly? It didn’t. Not one iota.
The utter absence of agents’ calls and scouts’ visits and draft experts’ namedrops actually filled Edmonds with a refreshing sense of peace. All stress crushing his spirit vanished.
“I felt like I couldn’t get any lower,” Edmonds says. “So, I went out there and tried to just clear my mind and ball. Like, ‘Man, shit can’t get much worse than it is right now. They’re not hitting me up so I might as well go out here and have fun.’ I let loose.”
One run changed everything. One 66-yard touchdown re-announced Edmonds to the football world.
The final game of his Fordham career against the Bucknell Bison, midway through the second quarter, Edmonds took an inside handoff and politely clowned an entire defense like old times. In one fell swoop of a move so smooth it looked choreographed, Edmonds broke one defender’s tackle and spun free from another to bust into the open field. He then dipped his shoulder to accelerate like a thoroughbred down the home stretch. Thirty yards upfield, a Bucknell DB had an angle on him, yet — at the perfect split-second — Edmonds tapped the brakes. He used a stutter step to freeze that DB before then slamming the gas pedal to waste him.
Edmonds was back. Most importantly, Edmonds’ confidence was back with a 28-carry, 185-yard performance.
With the 134th overall pick, the Arizona Cardinals selected Edmonds that following April. Right at the bottom of the fourth round they made him the 13th running back drafted — after such luminaries as Mark Walton, Ito Smith and Kalen Ballage. But, eh. Those were minor details. He had made it. He clawed his way into the league. He even had the NFL shield inked on his stomach with the number “134.” That tat is located right next to the shark which symbolizes his “sink or swim” mentality in the weight room. Back in Harrisburg, he and his friends refused to spot each other, no matter how much weight was being tossed around.
When arms and legs started getting shaky? “Sink or swim! Sink or swim!” They’d shout those three words through the murky weight room. The choice was simple: That barbell would either crush you or you’d be able to push it up.
No question, Edmonds remained a fiend in the gym. Arizona’s belief only cranked that internal notch that Anderson described in Part I another 360 degrees. A training session with Edmonds became part Rocky montage, part magic show.
Two months after the draft is when the clip of Edmonds’ torso levitating surpassed 3 million views:
The most dangerous tool at his disposal, however, was not those hamstrings.
No, no. It was his mind because the mind, he notes, is “more powerful than anything.”
Whenever he relives his bout of college depression with a friend, Edmonds explains that when he thought he was suffocating — when it felt like he was toiling in a pit of bottomless despair and all hope was lost — the entire experience was actually strengthening his mind to handle all adversity he’d ever face. This was high school all over again. Just as he became grateful his FBS prayers fell hollow, he became grateful for that ankle nightmare zapping his draft stock. Edmonds was able to land in Arizona where, as luck had it, he had family.
With Morgan already living in Arizona (where she earned her masters degree in Psychology), Alison retired to be closer to her daughter. Four months later, Chase was a Cardinal. Which made it easier for Avery visits, too. That’s why Edmonds also finds himself telling friends two words: “Zoom Out.” We all get caught up in daily stressors, he explains, that too easily steer us into a funk, a feeling that everything is “crashing down.” Bills to pay, diapers to change, etc. By taking a deep breath and zooming out, we can realize just how far we’ve come in life.
Here, at Dolphins HQ, Edmonds lifts his right bicep. The entire experience compelled him to get this tattoo. Inscribed in large serif font are the letters “A” and “V” and “M” for Affirmation, Visualization, Manifestation. He got this ink after reading the book, “The Law of Attraction,” soon after escaping his abyss. While not on Sammy Watkins’ level quite yet, there’s a parallel. Edmonds also started to believe in the power of emitting “energies” to shed his depression. Speaking positively, to him, inevitably creates positive outcomes.
Says Edmonds: “There’s truth in words. There’s truth in thoughts. There’s truth in energy and how you’re displaying it.”
Special things usually happened when Edmonds touched the ball his four seasons in Arizona. He returned to NYC in Year 2 as a pro to face the New York Giants and announced himself to the world. Against the No. 2 overall pick in his same draft, Saquon Barkley, this 134th pick detonated for 126 yards and three touchdowns. For good measure, Edmonds vomited into a sideline garbage can after the second score.
Says Anderson: “That was when he said, ‘I did it. I arrived. I can hang with these dudes.’”
Last season was supposed to be his star turn. During a contract year, no less.
Edmonds didn’t even mind that James Conner hoarded touches inside the 20 because the two were so unbelievably close and fed off each other in true Lightning-and-Thunder harmony. He viewed Conner as a kindred spirit, a fighter who overcame Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma. This Erie, Pa. native loved telling his Harrisburg teammate that “PA guys are thorough.” That was their relationship. “Thorough,” Edmonds emphasizes, “to the end.” To him, that meant always being willing to have an honest conversation with each other. Being “brothers.”
“I saw a man winning in life who deserved it,” Edmonds says of Conner’s 18 touchdowns. “Truly. He’s such an amazing human being.”
Edmonds has Conner’s book, “Fear is a Choice,” and saw firsthand how teammates feed off his energy. In a booming voice, he imitates his friend in the locker room. “Dig deep! Dig deep!” Edmonds has some of this to his makeup but tends to lead in a more cerebral way. New teammates are already calling him “Malcolm X” because he’s more apt to examine the sport (and life) with profound reasoning. Even in a split backfield, Edmonds’ value was undeniable through Arizona’s 7-0 start — he had 569 total yards, shredded the eventual champs for 120 rushing yards on 12 carries and was the quarterback’s right-hand man.
Snap to snap, Kyler Murray relied heavily on Edmonds’ football IQ because Edmonds was never in the wrong spot. “Never,” repeats Jordan Hogan, who spent the last two seasons on the Cardinals’ offensive staff and served as an assistant in the QB room.
“I don’t care what the personnel is — schematic-wise — he was someone who everyone trusted,” says Hogan. “Whether it was protections or getting us a tough yard, whether it’s picking up a pressure, he was never going to miss an assignment because his eyes were in the wrong spot. He always knew the gameplan. He knew his assignment.”
Hogan anoints Edmonds the best pure third-down back in the NFL, adding that he was the fourth-best route runner on the entire team. Wideouts and tight ends, included. If the Cardinals needed Edmonds to play the slot in a pinch, he could’ve because he can run the full route tree. When it came to protections, Murray trusted him. Murray, the coach says, was always “more comfortable when Chase was back there.” Because next to the QB and the center, nobody on the field was smarter. Every Thursday evening, Arizona had its protection meeting with the line and the backs and if there was a blip of confusion? Edmonds was the one who spoke up to make sure everyone was on the same page. If he was in the backfield, Murray was always more apt to stay in the pocket to carve a secondary up.
It also helped that Edmonds never shied from a 265-pound defensive end — he’d hold his own.
His edge only sharpened over time.
“I loved watching him work,” adds Hogan, now the wide receivers coach at Colgate University. “He didn’t come from the big Power 5, the big SEC school. His mentality was, ‘I’m trying to make the team every single day at practice.’ He always had something to prove. … He’s a great guy to follow. He’s in there every single day. He cares about football. He’ll hold other people accountable — physically — by the way he plays. If you’re his teammate, you’re like ‘I don’t want to let that guy down. Because he’s going to do his job.’ Everybody has their different motives for playing football but you know Chase is going to give it everything he’s got.”
Then came a bout of haunting déjà vu.
In Week 9, Edmonds ran into the teeth of the San Francisco 49ers’ defense and suffered a high ankle sprain on that same exact left ankle. A defensive end crashed onto the outside of his tibia with so much force Edmonds thought that he broke his leg. The X-ray was negative but given all those ligaments and tendons intertwining within into the ankle, as all pros know, a high ankle sprain can often be worse. Edmonds was out four games. This, after busting his ass like never before the prior offseason. This, with millions of dollars again on the line. His anxiety should’ve shot through the roof because, hell, he did the math. Even with Conner around, at his current clip, he could’ve hit 1,500 total yards. At least.
He cried alone. Again.
Only this time, he zoomed out. Watching Dr. Myles Munroe’s epic two-hour “Power of Kingdom Faith” speech helped pull Edmonds out of his sadness. So did taking another look at his sister’s text in that Notes app. These tears didn’t last long.
“Like five minutes. I’m crying like, ‘Damn, bro. Not this shit again,’” Edmonds says. “But that déjà vu brought me out of it. I could say, ‘You’ve been through worse. You’re already blessed.’ I’m already fortunate enough to be in the league. I’m already fortunate enough to be past the three-year average in the NFL. I just try to put everything into perspective and think about the losses I had and turn them into lessons.”
Hogan’s lasting memory will forever be Edmonds gutting through a crucial 25-22 win at Dallas late in the season when a heel injury sidelined Conner at the last second. He touched the ball 23 times that night. Oh, Edmonds continued to get dinged up himself — a toe, a broken rib — but he’d never complain.
He literally has to be on a hospital bed not to play,” Hogan says. “He’s giving everything he’s got.”
The Cardinals’ season ended in the wild card round against the Rams. They were not interested in re-signing Edmonds, either. But so what? He had several potential suitors in free agency.
He was in demand.
His value to a team was obvious.
All roads have now led to 2022.