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JSU football: Edwards' TD-saving block seals his Gamecock legacy

JSU Johnson 47

Damond Philyaw-Johnson's 59-yard touchdown catch from Zerrick Cooper on the last play beat Florida State.

Jacksonville State's Ahmad Edwards was recruited to catch passes for the Gamecocks, and he does it well enough that he was second-team all-conference last season.

Even so, no matter how many receptions he makes in his JSU career, he'll always be recognized at least partly for a block on one of the biggest touchdowns in school history.

In Saturday's 20-17 thrilling upset of Florida State, Damond Philyaw-Johnson caught a 59-yard pass on the last play to win it. Still, he caught the ball at the 21 and needed to find his way into the end zone from there.

Florida State redshirt freshman defensive back Jarvis Brownlee Jr. appeared to have an angle on Philyaw-Johnson as he neared the end zone, but Edwards slammed into Brownlee to eliminate the last obstacle for a touchdown. Brownlee is the same defensive back who was covering Philyaw-Johnson on the play.

"Coach always preaches, 'Finish,'" Edwards said after a JSU practice this week. "When we run hills, we talk about finishing, finishing, finishing. So I ran with the mindset that we needed to finish."

Edwards added that on the block, he was just trying to do his job, but the attention he has received for that one block has been a bit of a shock.

"I'm surprised at how crazy it's been since the game," Edwards said. "My phone has blown up."

Edwards said he figured Brownlee didn't realize he was there until it was too late.

"His eyes were locked on (Philyaw-Johnson)," he said. "He looked back and saw me at the last second."

It happened so suddenly that Philyaw-Johnson thought at first it was teammate Mike Pettway streaking by to block Brownlee.

"The block he made, that shows how selfless (Edwards) is," Philyaw-Johnson said. "He's a great leader and a great teammate."

This is Edwards' fourth year on campus, and he has developed a reputation as a pretty good pass-catcher. In fact, he caught the touchdown pass earlier in the fourth quarter to cut Florida State's lead to 17-14.

He caught 17 passes last season and scored three touchdowns, which earned him second-team All-Ohio Valley Conference honors in the Gamecocks' last year in the league. When he arrived at JSU in 2018, guys like Daniel Byrd, Josh Pearson and Jamari Hester served as leaders for him.

Edwards said he's trying to be a good leader himself. Philyaw-Johnson said it's helped him greatly.

"The first thing I noticed about him was his leadership," said Philyaw-Johnson, a graduate transfer from Duke. "I got here in June, and from the start, he's helped me learn the system. He's a character guy. He's positive and never puts anybody down.

"He's a great teammate."

And, apparently, a great blocker.

Senior Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.