Growing up, the plan for Christopher Edwards, MD, was always the same: Go to college to study medicine. The plan was never to become a star college quarterback.
But sometimes, life takes you on a little detour before you reach your ultimate destination.
As a result of his prolific college football career, the Tri Rivers orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon was inducted Sept. 6 into the Washington & Jefferson College Athletic Hall of Fame.
Dr. Edwards grew up near Akron, Ohio, playing soccer and baseball before discovering football at age 11. It took two years before coaches noticed his arm.
“They saw me throwing the ball around during practice,” Dr. Edwards said, “and they asked me if I wanted to play quarterback for the team, since we didn’t have one at the time. I said, ‘Sure, why not?’”
Dr. Edwards worked his way up from there. He trained with one of his youth coaches, who helped him develop his arm strength and throwing mechanics. Although he played high school football for only two seasons, Dr. Edwards shined as the starting quarterback, and colleges took notice. When it came time to pick a school, Dr. Edwards had some tough decisions to make. He enjoyed playing football, but he also wanted to prioritize his love for medicine.
“I was the first person in my family to even go to college, so just getting into school and being part of that was more than enough for me. I didn’t really have any guidance about where to go to school for football or how to deal with the recruiting process. I was getting lots of letters and going on lots of recruiting trips.
“I ended up settling on Washington & Jefferson because they had a really good pre-med program. My ultimate goal was to focus more on the academic side of things. I felt W&J was a great fit for both academics and athletics, so that’s where I went.”
Once there, Dr. Edwards flourished on the field and in the classroom. He led the Presidents to two NCAA playoff appearances, including the 2004 team’s run to the national quarterfinals. All in all, he passed for more than 8,000 yards and 87 touchdowns in his college career. He was named to the Don Hansen All-America Team in 2005 and was selected as a finalist for the National Football Foundation National Scholar Athlete award. Dr. Edwards said the 2004 season, including the playoff run, meant the most to him because of the joy it brought to W&J fans.
“During that season, we had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs,” he said. “Our first playoff game went to double overtime, and I threw the winning touchdown pass. Any time you can win a playoff game in double overtime and fans rush the field, that’s a lot of fun.”
Dr. Edwards’s accolades don’t stop there. He set an NCAA record with 26 consecutive completions – five at the end of one game, then 21 straight to start the next game – a Division III football record that stands to this day. The crazy thing? He didn’t even know it was happening.
“Suddenly, we had an incompletion that didn’t mean much, and everyone in the stands groaned,” he said. “I didn’t know what the big deal was. Then they made an announcement about the record. When you’re in the moment, it’s hard to know. You’re not thinking about it.”
His playing days are over now, but Dr. Edwards still loves to be around football. As part of his duties at Tri Rivers, he occasionally serves as a team physician for local high school teams such as Knoch and Mars. Sometimes he reflects on his time at W&J, as he surely did when he discovered he’d be receiving the school’s highest athletic honor. He’s come a long way since picking up the football as a kid.
“It was challenging throughout the way,” Dr. Edwards said. “It proves that perseverance helps, and it solidifies that what I did was worth it.”