When Brad Edwards left North Carolina 17 years ago, he had no idea where athletics would take him.
First, there was an All-America football career at South Carolina and then a nine-year, three-city stint in the NFL. Following his retirement, he returned to his alma mater as a sports department administrator before moving into a bigger role as Newberry College’s athletics director.
Now, athletics is taking him to a place of historical significance. Edwards is one of seven people who will be inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame this year, the organization announced Monday.
“I really had no idea where it would take me,” said Edwards, a 1984 graduate of Douglas Byrd High School (N.C.). “At that point in your life, you’re seeing things that are only two feet in front you of, thinking about only what your next step is going to be.
“I just wanted to make the South Carolina football team, graduate and have a meaningful career.”
Edwards has done more than that. In fact, he might have developed into a hall-of-fame candidate for what he’s done off the field — in addition to on it — if the committee had waited a few years, but executive director Ephraim Ulmer said the SCAHOF couldn’t hold off any longer on his selection.
He will be inducted May 23 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center along with former Clemson and NFL standout Chester McGlockton, former USC football player and Gamecock Club director Ed Pitts, former Lander coach and athletics director Finis Horne, former prep and college football standout Joe Mathis, former Clemson football standout Gene Moore and former Army football standout Arnold Tucker.
Like Edwards, many in the class were also selected for their accomplishments as both players and contributors. He certainly has achieved success in both realms.
“The whole package of what he did during his playing days at the college level and in the NFL and in sports administration,” Ulmer said of the factors that stood out in Edwards’ selection. “Our charge is to identify people who have had a lasting impact on athletics in South Carolina.”
Edwards said he was “extremely honored” to be chosen by the hall of fame, which is 51 years old. He believes his biggest impact on athletics in the state has come after his playing career was completed.
“I think ultimately it’s in the front office at South Carolina and Newberry,” said Edwards, who was hired at Newberry in 2009 as athletic director and has taken control of the school’s external functions. “My role here has changed, and to be involved at that level in higher education is why I got into it to start with. I wanted to have an impact on young people.”
For four years he had a big impact on USC’s football program. An athletic safety, he returned interceptions for touchdowns against Clemson in both his junior and senior seasons. He was named an All-American by two organizations in 1987 before being selected in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft.
Edwards had 18 interceptions in an NFL career that spanned nearly a decade with the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons. He had two interceptions in the Redskins’ Super Bowl XXVI win over Buffalo and was runner-up for MVP honors.
Edwards returned to USC in 1999 assistant athletics director for development and was named associate athletics director two years later. He took over as senior associate athletics director in 2003, playing a big role in the growth of USC athletics as the department’s chief financial officer.
He left USC for the private sector in 2006, but he realized he belonged in college athletics. Edwards jumped at the chance to direct Newberry’s athletics department, which is making strides under his guidance.
“To work in athletics on a day-to-day basis, where you feel like you’re really impacting lives, it really provides meaning,” Edwards said. “To be in position to help shape future citizen leaders for our communities in South Carolina, that gives you a lot of comfort.”