The opportunity to play a sport and receive a great college education is almost any young athlete’s dream. For Taylor Edwards, it’s a sign that hard work has paid off.
Edwards, a recent Hampton graduate and all-conference standout on the baseball diamond and football gridiron for the Bulldogs, will take his talents to Milligan College — where he is one of the newest members of coach Nathan Meade’s Buffaloes baseball squad.
“I’m extremely excited,” said Edwards, who signed with Milligan on March 15. “The biggest thing for me, of course, is getting an education. To be able to play ball at the same time and get a scholarship to help and to play ball was a big deal for me and my family too. It’s been amazing.”
A power hitter who played third base, first base and pitched for the Bulldogs, Edwards will make the transition to first base on a fulltime basis when fall baseball kicks into gear.
He will be given an opportunity to showcase his potential and, through hard work, could earn some playing time as his collegiate career advances.
Hard work will not be a problem for Edwards. An ACL injury on the football field his junior season could’ve derailed many athletes, but the Bulldog battled back from the injury by the end of junior year and his performance in baseball put him in position to play at Milligan.
“I didn’t choose baseball until this year, actually,” Edwards said. “My junior year after I tore my ACL in football, I tried to play a little more baseball than I did football. By the end of my junior year, I ended up being good enough to try and play college baseball. That’s when I decided.”
For his prep baseball career, Edwards hit over 20 home runs between varsity and junior varsity baseball play at Hampton. His batting average was in the high .300s (.409 as a senior) and he sparked the team offensively on several occasions, earning multiple all-conference selections.
While baseball was his choice, Edwards was good enough to pursue football as well.
After returning to the field his senior year, the standout accounted for 74 tackles with six sacks and two fumble recoveries on the defensive line, and also had a great year as a blocker — dividing his time between tackle and guard on the left side for the Bulldogs.
His played earned him Elizabethton Star Co-Lineman of the Year honors on the annual All-Carter/Johnson County football squad as well as a first team all-conference selection.
He credits coach Matthew Hardin and the Hampton coaching staff, God and his family for helping him excel on the athletic fields and the Hampton High staff for pushing him to realize his potential academically.
“The coaching staff at Hampton, they pretty much made me who I am today,” Edwards said. “If it wasn’t for Coach (Matthew) Hardin, I wouldn’t be swinging a bat right now. I owe a lot to them. I owe everything to my family and as far as my ability, my family and God.
“I’d like God for letting me play and giving me my ability. My grandfather has been here since I was little and always been to every game, my grandparents, my mom and dad and my whole family. I’d also like to thank my coaches and the staff at Hampton High School as far as teachers. They thought my grades were good enough to get into college and helped me out on that part.
“I wasn’t the brightest kid when I first started (school), but I guess they saw potential and pushed me. I listened to them.”
As much as anything, however, a tight bond with his family and the support they gave helped him realize that Milligan was the perfect fit.
“They’re all supportive of my decision to play baseball instead of football,” Edwards said. “They were a big part of my decisions and a big part of my life. It was a big help. They pushed me all the way.”
Now Edwards, who plans to pursue a career in sports medicine with an emphasis in occupational therapy, pushes himself on a daily basis to prepare to make a mark at Milligan.
“I’ve been working out, I go to the baseball field every day and take infield and batting practice and all of that, trying to get better and better,” he added. “Coach Meade is going to send me a workout plan eventually and I’ll start working out to his plan. Until then, I’ve been taking practice.”
The opportunity is there and Taylor Edwards has his sights set on making his next mark at Milligan.