At 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, Steve Edmond is the perfect blend of size and speed for a middle linebacker, but that frame isn’t quite so suitable to kicking field goals.
However, that’s one of the roles Edmond found himself in at Daingerfield High School, a small 2A school in East Texas. And it’s safe to say, Edmond is a much better suited at linebacker than kicker.
During one district home game, Edmond had missed four or five PAT’s in a row, and despite what should be a supportive home atmosphere, the stadium announcer was making light of Edmond’s inability to split the uprights. Remarkably, it got even worse for Edmond when he knocked in his final two attempts, because in those moments, with the urging of the commentator, the fans exploded into sarcastic applause.
Edmond, however, got some retribution for his embarrassment when a more friendly announcer called their next contest.
“The dude [commentator] got fired the very next day,” Edmond said. “It hurt my feelings. And my coach was saying ‘I can’t believe they are doing this to Steve.’”
Edmond has come a long way from missing PAT’s at a 2A school. Now he’s making the calls in the middle of the field at the University of Texas. However, as it was when Edmond kicked field goals, he’s had quite a few misses before being able to connect.
At the beginning of the season the hype was high for Edmond, who would be taking over the starting role at middle linebacker. He had received rave reviews from his teammates in the offseason and his natural athletic ability — he runs a 4.7 second 40-yard dash — made him one to watch.
However, Edmond had only played sparingly during his freshman campaign, and it would be a big adjustment for him to go from 2A high school football to the Big 12.
“The expectations were totally unreasonable because he played very little last year,” head coach Mack Brown said. “The transition from Daingerfield to here is a big leap.”
It proved to be.
Edmond struggled at the beginning of the season to stay in his lanes and keep up with all of the responsibilities that come with being in the commander in the middle of the defense.
Remarkably, the speed of the game managed to pick up when Texas lost linebacker Jordan Hicks to a hip injury in the Ole Miss game. Hicks, a junior, was the eldest member of the linebacking corps and the unquestioned leader of the group. But without his presence all of the pre-snap responsibilities fell to Edmond.
“When he [Hicks] was out there he’d be telling me ‘do this, do that or whatever’ and I’d just do that,” Edmond said. “And now that he’s gone the pressure is on me now.”
Through the first few games, Edmond, and to an extent the Texas defense, had difficulty adjusting to Hicks’ absence. In four successive games, two of which were losses, the Longhorns surrendered 275, 192, 334 and 255 yards rushing.
It wasn’t all on Edmond — tackling issues have plagued the entire unit this year and other young players have floundered — but he felt responsible for the pair of losses. It didn’t help the sophomore that he was heaping too much pressure upon himself attempting to live up to expectations.
“I just wanted to backup what everybody was saying, and then I kinda wasn’t,” Edmond said. “I felt like the OU loss and West Virginia loss was on my shoulders.”
He’s done more the enough over the past few games to make up for it. The coaches aren’t sure when it happened, but it seems a light has clicked on for Edmond of late. He’s playing more aggressively and is no longer hesitating on his calls at the line. He looks like a more confident player in the middle and is playing like it.
Last Saturday against Texas Tech, Edmond was swarming around the field. He led the team with 10 tackles, and his fourth quarter pass breakup – on a play in which he read the quarterbacks’ eyes to swat away what would have been a sure first down — stopped a promising Tech drive, which would have allowed the Red Raiders to snag
Edmond is now the team leader in tackles with 76. He still hasn’t quite reached the outstanding potential his freakish athleticism allows, but he’s on a steady upward tick.
“He’s making better plays week in and week out,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “He still has it ton to improve, but it’s been fun to see his growth.”
The growth will continue, but he’s ensured one thing already: there isn’t another announcer that will dare to poke fun at his skills again.