Nov. 16, 2011
"Finding a Home for Thomas Edenfield"
By Jacob Neal, Media Relations Student Assistant
"You're going to laugh, but I played golf actually," said Southern Miss senior lineman Thomas Edenfield when asked about his athletic past. "I shoot in the mid 80's," is not something you expect to hear from the 6-foot-5, 298 lbs., offensive tackle, but it is the truth. "In Florida, they had this rule that big guys like me couldn't play pee-wee football, so I played other sports," explained Edenfield.
Edenfield grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. where he attended Bartram Trail High School. It was here that Edenfield finally find his football niche. "It was about my eleventh grade year. People were always asking me why I didn't play football, until finally the coach told me to come try out," said Edenfield. "I went and played, and ended up being pretty good so I went for it." Although he only played a year and half of high school football, the college offers came rolling in for Edenfield. In his first year of playing for Bartram Trail, he was selected to the 5A all-state team, but the next season, an ACL injury put Edenfield on the sidelines.
"I had such a good season the year before that I was super enthusiastic about playing. I ended up going a little too hard in the spring game though and blew my knee," recounts Edenfield. However, this set back did not hinder the Division 1 offers from coming through.
"The first real big offer I got was from Florida, I'd always wanted to play at Florida, but I didn't really like the offensive line coach so I passed. Then I thought about going to Florida State, but that was the year they got rid of the whole staff except Bowden," recalled Edenfield. Ranked the 41st best offensive tackle prospect in the nation by Rivals.com his senior season, Edenfield eventually committed to the University of South Florida to play under then-coach Jim Leavitt. That year the Bulls went 9-3 and played in the Brut Sun Bowl against Oregon. South Florida was ranked as high as No. 2 in the country at one point that season. Edenfield did not stay at USF long however, the next year he requested a transfer.
Edenfield transferred to the College of the Sequoias in the central valley area of California that next season. Success followed after playing in the Triumphant Sports Bowl and the Junior College all-star game.
"After being out there," said Edenfield, "I just wanted to be a little closer to home," when asked about his decision to come to Southern Miss. "I also really liked the offensive line coach, ChrisKapilovic. He knows how to keep me motivated without going too far." Edenfield was also impressed by the talent that would surround him on the team. "Everyone is really good, especially Cordarro Law. I'm glad I don't have to go up against a guy like that," said Edenfield.
It wasn't just the team or the coaches, however, who helped Edenfield finally decide on Southern Miss, but the proximity to his home town of Jacksonville as well.
"My family is extremely important to me," Edenfield said. "My little brother Chase, especially. He's ten and looks up to me a lot. We talk all the time and I want to be a good role model for him. So he kind of drives me to be the best I can. My parents, Jerry Edenfield and Deborah Smith, along with my step parents, Keith Smith and Kelly Edenfield, have always supported me, and helped keep me focused no matter where I was going to school. They're a big reason why I am here today."
This type of support has no doubt helped Edenfield on the field as well as off it. When a knee injury briefly sidelined Edenfield, he took stock of his teammates' ability and placed total faith in them.
"The guy in my spot, Jason Weaver, is pretty experienced and knows what to do. I just try to support everybody, the young guys and the older guys."
The leadership Edenfield shows can only come from someone who has been through as much adversity as him. Through multiple schools, and multiple injuries Edenfield has shown class and poise, and finally, he feels as though he has found a home here at Southern Miss.
Though Edenfield is finishing up his time at the University, he'll have something to take with him when he goes. He will also leave with a degree to go along with the many memories and relationships. With a major in psychology, he aspires to one day attend law school or work for the DEA. Regardless of where the future may take him, he will no doubt handle it with the same skill and perseverance that he has brought to the field.