Evrett Edwards stopped at a gas station and pulled out his little notebook Sunday, the wheels in his head beginning to spin as a decision neared.
In the preceding weeks, as the Duke graduate transfer safety made visits around the country for a closer examination at prospective schools, he carried with him this little notebook he often uses to jot down his thoughts.
What type of defense do they run? He’d write down the answer. What can I do for the program here? What can the program do for me here? Another jotting. What's my relationship like with the players and coaches? He observed and wrote. Then the biggest question: Am I comfortable?
Monday, after spending his long drive Sunday and more time that night thinking through his notebook jottings, Edwards found an answer to that final question. He pulled up Facetime on his phone and dialed Iowa State coach Matt Campbell.
“The atmosphere at Iowa State while I was there and the coaching staff, I felt, were the best fit for me,” Edwards said Monday afternoon. “The defense they run, it’s just different terminology, but it’s the same thing I’m accustomed to leaving Duke University. I just felt like that’s where I’d be able to demonstrate my talents best and help the team the most.”
The 5-foot-11 Edwards, who was ranked as the No. 79 overall cornerback when he committed to Duke out of high school in the 2013 class, redshirted his freshman year before playing in 12 games (216 snaps) the next two seasons, recording 20 tackles, one interception and two pass breakups.
After graduating from Duke in three years, Edwards will arrive at Iowa State in the coming weeks as an immediately eligible transfer with two years remaining. He’ll also arrive with a strong understanding of Iowa State’s 4-2-5 defense.
“The guys that are there, they’re learning a new defense,” Edwards said. “It’s not so much a new defense for me from what I’m coming from. I got to sit down with Coach [Jon] Heacock and pick his brain a little over the defense and the message that I received was, ‘It’s open. It’s yours for the taking. If you come in, if you don’t play, it’s your fault. We’re not playing favorites here. We’re not playing games with you. If you’re good enough, we’ll put you on the field and if you’re not, then you’re not. You have to work for it.’
“I just like how blunt and honest the answer was.”
Edwards, who visited Iowa State for its spring game two weeks ago, ultimately chose Iowa State over Maryland, Utah State and Troy, three schools he had visited since announcing his plans to transfer in March. The Cyclones will use him at safety.
After watching Iowa State’s spring game, Edwards was already familiar with some of the lingo used by Heacock and the defense.
“The package I saw during the spring game — it seemed like they only ran a few plays based on defensive line movement and coverage schemes and so forth — I felt like it was literally the exact same thing that I’ve learned and run at Duke, just different names for the plays,” Edwards said. “There were a few checks I was able to pick up on from listening to the guys talk on the field [and] they meant the exact same thing.”
Edwards has heard that it can take a graduate transfer four games to truly get acclimated with a new program, but he’s hoping that learning curve can be shortened with his early knowledge. He’s also encouraged by having two years to play.
Monday, he saw that same excitement on the face of his new head coach.
“I’ve seen him smile a lot, but that was a really big smile on his face,” Edwards said. “He was excited and I was excited. We’re just ready to get this thing rolling.”