On his first and only carry against his team's arch-rival last November, Fort Smith Northside running back Semaj Edwards saw his career flash before his eyes.
Edwards (5-11, 205) suffered a major knee injury on that carry against Fort Smith Southside in the regular season finale.
"When I first went down, I was actually thinking I was going to be able to go back in," Edward said. "But then they told me not only was I done for this game, but that my knee was really tore up."
Edwards, who rushed for 1,142 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, showed this past weekend during the McDonald's Select 7-on-7 Tournament that he is well on his way to full recovery.
"It feels good now," Edwards said. "I really went after rehab and I think I am pretty much back to full strength, maybe 90 to 95 percent. I did everything this spring except contact and I have did all of our 7-on-7 stuff. I feel like I am going to be good to go when the season starts."
Fort Smith Northside coach Darrell Henry wouldn't expect his star to say anything different.
"He has worked hard and really done a good job," Henry said. "The doctor is real pleased with his progress and so are we. If you talked to Semaj, it never hurts. He just never complains. But he is a lot better than he was a month ago and obviously we'll get even better as time goes on."
"This weekend was really the first time we had really let him go," Henry added. "We pleased with the way he looks. Of course, we don't have pads on and nobody's hit him yet, but we feel pretty good where we are headed."
Edwards was getting interest from schools such as Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Army, BYU, California, Rice, Rutgers, Texas Tech and Texas A&M before the injury.
Those schools have stayed in contact but have shied away from offering because of the ACL tear.
"A lot of schools say they just want to see how I come back during the season before they think about offering," Edwards said. "I understand that."
Army was on the verge of offering Edwards before the injury according to Henry.
"Army was going to offer at the end of the season and then he goes and tears his knee up just a few days before that was going to happen," Henry said. "They are still very much interested, but they are going to wait now and see how he comes back. That's what makes you sick – you have something on the table and one play takes it away.
"It's a business and everybody in college has to find the players," Henry said. "They are all going to wait and see how he comes back. But even at 90 percent Semaj is pretty good and I think the opportunities are going to be there. He is a physical guy and likes to run up in there and hurt people."
Arkansas, with new head coach Bobby Petrino taking over for Houston Nutt, has kept in touch and went by to see Edwards this spring.
"They came by and he is definitely on their radar," Henry said. "I'm not saying that would offer no matter what, but he is certainly on their radar."
Edwards got a chance to meet the new coaching staff when he made it up for Arkansas' junior day last fall.
"It's a big change," Edwards said. "They brought us up here and they treated us like we were kings. My first impression of Coach Petrino was that he was like one of us, just one of the guys sitting around talking to us. So far I am really, really liking him."
FS Northside was 7-2 when Edwards got hurt, but lost to Southside 28-21 and then Russellville 24-20 in the first round of the playoffs.
He went to work soon after with his rehab with a goal of being on the field for the first snap of 2008.
"I have been working hard everyday," Edwards said. "They told me if I worked hard I would be back when I was suppose to and it looks like that is going to happen.
"It (the rehab) was pretty bad at first," Edwards added. "I got started just two or three days after the injury. It was pretty tough on me. Then I actually had the surgery and it got even tougher because the clinic that was at really pushes you to the limit."
Edwards will wear a knee brace throughout the season.
"He is going to wear that brace all year long," Henry said. "Most would like to get him out of the brace, but we are going to keep him in it for protection. We also have to get him back in running shape and then football shape. Right now he is in bicycle shape."
Because they lack size, Northside is switching from a run-oriented offense to a more wide-open one.
Henry says it is likely to be 60-40 pass, maybe even 50-50 if Edwards can handle the load.
"We are going to get the ball in his hands," Henry said. "If he can go, we are going to give it to him plenty. We are still going to do our zone running game, but we are going to try and throw the ball into the flats and get him in space as well. We are not as big as we have been so we have got to get the ball outside and get it to our playmakers."
A Grizzly Rehab
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