Bret Edwards is preparing for the biggest game of his life.
But, luckily for the former Central Catholic star quarterback, the worst part is already over.
Wait, what? What could be worse than the nerves of starting your first collegiate game under center — especially when that game is for a Division 1-AA program like the University of New Hampshire?
Well, Edwards will tell you what.
It’s that pesky, rotten, good-for-nothing, nerve-racking mid-week interview with the media.
“Man, I’m sweating,” said the 6-foot-1 signal-caller from Lowell as he got up from his chat with over two dozen media members on Wednesday.
As he left the media room rubbing the sweat off his arms, to his right teammate and senior captain Pop Lacey couldn’t hold back his laughter.
“He was so nervous!” laughed Lacey as he walked over to the podium.
But everything’s OK now, Bret. It’s all over.
Because from now until kickoff on Saturday at Fitton Field on the campus of Holy Cross (1 p.m.), all Edwards has to worry about is playing football. And if anybody from the Merrimack Valley remembers anything about the three-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star, they know that the kid can play.
“It was amazing,” said the soft-spoken redshirt freshman after he found out he was named the starter. “I didn’t really know what to think of it at first. It didn’t set in for a couple days. A lot of stuff happened fast, and then I stepped back and I was like ‘Wow, this is pretty cool.’”
FROM BENCH, TO INJURED, TO STARTER
The job was up for grabs after the graduation of Trevor Knight, who finished his UNH career sixth all-time in passing yards (6,345).
Edwards absorbed all he could from the sidelines during his redshirt year, knowing the opportunity to start this season would be available if he put in the work.
But there was just one problem.
Injury severely limited his reps during spring practices, which hurt his ability to give the coaching staff some positive early film to look at. But he rehabbed hard to be ready for the annual spring game, and went 8 for 14 passing for 48 yards and a touchdown. He then spent most of his summer practicing in Durham, and arrived at training camp a brand new quarterback.
“Last year I was just a young kid out here just throwing the ball around,” said Edwards. “This year, I’ve gotten a lot deeper into coverages and knowing where to throw the ball, when I need to and cancelling stuff out. Just having a better mindset when I go out there.”
Edwards beat out true freshman Max Brosmer for the starting job after a 17-for-18 performance for 176 yards and two TDs in the Blue-White game. Interim head coach Ricky Santos called it a “1A and 1B situation,” and said that Brosmer could see some action on Saturday.
But Edwards impressed the entire coaching staff with his poise and leadership, and was named the team’s starter on Monday.
“We’ve been very encouraged with what he’s done over the past month,” said Santos. “He’s done a great job of protecting the ball, and right now he’s running better.”
Edwards was met with a heap of praise on social media from his teammates when he was announced as the starter .
After losing a stalwart like Knight — a three-year starter — the transition to the next “guy” can be tumultuous.
But the Wildcats seem to have plenty of confidence in Edwards.
“He’s definitely taken a bunch of strides” said Lacey, the Wildcats’ star safety. “One of the biggest things for him was getting a little bit stronger, a little bit faster, getting his weight up, but he’s made tremendous strides, ... He’s always had the arm strength, but now it’s doing the things to get him to be able to play consistently on a day in and day out basis.”
Lacey, a quad-captain, knows what it takes to lead.
And in that department, he thinks Edwards has what it takes to head the offense.
“I’ve definitely seen his leadership grow,” said Lacey. “He’s been able to motivate other people to be better. ... It may not be very loud and outgoing, but it’s very focused and you can tell he does little, subtle things to prove his leadership.”
So the stage is set, and come Saturday Edwards will be front and center.
Will there be butterflies?
“Yeah I think I’ll definitely be nervous,” said Edwards. “I’ll just do what I can do, and I think after the first snap I’ll be good.”
Just don’t ask him for an interview before the game.
UNH VS. HOLY CROSS
Where: Fitton Field, Worcester
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
2018 Records: UNH (4-7); Holy Cross (5-6)
Last Year: UNH took down Holy Cross, 28-0, on Oct. 6, 2018
Fast Fact: Former Central Catholic star Bret Edwards won the job as UNH’s starting QB.
LEARNING FROM A LEGEND
No. 2 will never again be worn by a UNH football player, and new interim coach Ricky Santos is the reason why.
The Wildcat Hall of Famer passed for 13,212 passing yards and 123 touchdowns over his illustrious career, and was quite the capable dual-threat option — like newly-named starting QB Bret Edwards.
A former star at Central Catholic, Edwards will certainly be learning from one of the greats to ever come through the program.
“He’s just told me to stay calm and treat it like a practice,” said Edwards.
When asked what will be the most important trait his young quarterback displays on Saturday, Santos said: “His demeanor has to stay the same. ... I told him don’t feel like you need to win the game on every snap.”
The UNH football team will get its first look at Bret Edwards as the team’s starting quarterback when the Wildcats travel to Holy Cross on Saturday (1 p.m.).
Interestingly, in his press conference with the media on Wednesday, the former Central Catholic star said Holy Cross was a school he was considering committing to.
Thankfully for the Wildcats, former Raider teammate Michael Balsamo — now a senior linebacker — put in a strong pitch for UNH, which helped entice Edwards to commit.