The names kept rolling off Kelvin Edwards’ tongue in rapid-fire succession.
Fred Banks. Richard Shelton. Mark Mathis. Wayne Haddix. Rennie Jones. Steve Clark.
Each name carried an NFL team with it as Edwards’ memory flooded back with memories of his former college teammates’ time at the professional level.
For the 55-year-old Edwards, who also donned NFL jerseys, those teammates on the Liberty football team were equally responsible for the gaudy numbers he put up as a wide receiver and his eventual selection in the fourth round of the 1986 NFL Draft.
Those same teammates are reuniting with Edwards this Saturday for the football program’s Homecoming game against Maine. This reunion, however, carries extra significance for Edwards.
He will be the fourth person to have a jersey retired by the football program as his No. 83 will be unveiled in between the first and second quarters of the Flames’ 6 p.m. matchup with Maine at Williams Stadium.
“These guys are going to be there and that’s going to be another experience,” Edwards said in a recent phone interview. “One thing I told them, ‘Look here, I didn’t get this jersey retired by myself. You guys helped me to get there. You guys pushed me to be who I am right now. You guys worked me — even the days I didn’t want to play, practice, you made me practice because your competitiveness in you allowed me to get on that field to compete every day.’”
The jersey retirement ceremony marks only the fourth jersey retired by the football program.
The No. 71 was retired in 2006 in honor of Jerry Falwell and no player wears that number in any sport at Liberty. Former coach Sam Rutigliano and tight end Eric Green (No. 86) had jerseys retired in their honor in 2008.
Edwards, a native of Atlanta, was named to the Associated Press Little All-America first team in 1985 and selected to play in the Blue-Gray All-Star game that same season.
He graduated from Liberty with 2,546 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns, and was one of seven inducted into the athletic department’s inaugural Hall of Fame class in 2009.
The inaugural class included Jerry Falwell, Arthur Williams, Elena (Kisseleva) Bengds, Bob Bonheim, Sid Bream and Karl Hess.
“First off, it’s always an honor to get an award for anything that you do in life that you think that you’re really deserving of a lot of time,” Edwards said. “When I look at the honor, first off, I would like to thank Jerry Falwell Jr., Dr. Falwell, and then I’d like to thank the school itself, the faculty and staff, and just the student body.
“I know I couldn’t do it without the student body, being motivated by them to go out and play in these games that were cold, snow on the field, rain on the field, and it wasn’t that many, but the ones that showed up, I want to thank them for being a part of it. To me, that is the greatest honor of them all: to be accepted by your peers, be accepted by the people around you to respect for what you’ve done and the body of work you’ve put in.”
The gaudy numbers he produced on the gridiron are particularly impressive given the number of future pros on the roster. All six former teammates attending the jersey retirement ceremony played for at least one NFL team. Banks played for three teams over eight seasons and Haddix was voted to the NFL Pro Bowl in 1990 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I think we had an unusual team with a bunch of unusual players that came from different ethnic backgrounds and different places,” Edwards said. “For us to mend together as one, it’s probably one of the greatest scenes that probably ever happened. If you really go and dissect our team, just dissect that ’82, ’83, ’84, ’85 team, you will see there were more pros on any team that ever been in Liberty history.
“Do I think playing and being an All-American and being drafted was a key impact? Yes, it was. I think it was a key design only by God. Only God could do that. Only God could have put that team together like that. So, so many different athletes from different places of the country was able to play together and really talented players.
“Practice was like playing in the Big 12 or playing in the SEC or playing in the Big 10 for our skill position, because our skill position, you noticed we had a lot of people drafted from our skill positions. It was always competition going on every day.”
Edwards owns a pair of car dealerships in the Dallas, Texas area — in the cities of Cedar Hill and Lancaster south of Dallas — and has attended several recent Liberty football games.
He made the 90-minute trip to Waco for the 2017 season opener that saw the Flames defeat Baylor 48-45 for the program’s first victory over a Power 5 program, and he attended this season’s opener against Syracuse, which marked the first time an ACC team visited Williams Stadium.
The evolution of the program is something he said he never would have envisioned when he was 18 years old and first stepping foot onto Liberty’s campus.
“Right now as an older gentleman, I think this is an amazing scene. It’s coming into fruition in my own time,” he said. “I’m able to live through this thing and can see this right here.
“Some teammates of mine have passed away, and now I’m able to see what Dr. Falwell was visualizing all from the beginning that playing in an 80,000-seat stadium, playing against North Carolina, playing against Syracuse.
“This is an awesome moment in time for Liberty University. People need to take advantage of it. We might not win, but we’re starting to change how people look at us, how people feel about Liberty University.”
Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.