COLUMBUS — Forty-eight hours after punching his ticket to the biggest game there is in the world of NFL football, Columbus High School graduate Dwan Edwards was still in disbelief.
“I’ve been a part of teams that I thought could make it to the Super Bowl, but this is just amazing. I can’t believe it,” the Carolina Panthers defensive tackle told the Stillwater County News Tuesday night from his home in Charlotte, N.C.
The Panthers thumped the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 last Sunday to win the NFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7. The 15-1 Panthers, led by quarterback Cam Newton, will battle gridiron legend Peyton Manning and the No. 1 defense in the league.
For Edwards, the momentous achievement comes in his 12th year in the NFL and at a time when he has elevated his game.
“Dwan Edwards has stepped up at the right time,” said Panther Coach Ron Rivera during a press conference posted on the Panther’s team website after Sunday’s win.
Since Sunday night, Edwards said it has been nearly a non-stop process of getting everything in place for the big game. That includes arranging for his mom, Cass Hense-Hegg, step-father Dennis Hegg, father Lafette “Laf” Edwards, his sister and former Columbus High School football coach John Smith to share this experience with him.
“I had no idea how complicated it is. It’s crazy, but it’s worth it,” said Edwards. “I want to make sure they enjoy it.”
Hense-Hegg arrived back in Columbus earlier this week after watching the Panthers beat the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals on back-to-back Sundays. As she and Edwards sat in an airport, the enormity of the circumstance began to sink in.
“He shook his head, started to smile and said ‘I’m going to the Super Bowl,'” said Hense-Hegg. “It is very exciting.”
She is not completely surprised by her son’s achievement because it had long been his goal. She believed in him and he believed in himself. Add to the mix great coaches and teachers in the Columbus school district and the result is Edwards.
“Columbus should be very proud of what they have produced,” said Hense-Hegg. “This is what dreams are made of. This is the product of lots of care and love.”
In fact, Hense-Hegg said her son found himself more academically prepared for college than many of his teammates at Oregon State University.
She also spoke of her son’s kindness, saying family refer to him as the “gentle giant.” Edwards and wife Kelsey are the parents of five children and have been married for 15 years.
Edwards’ local roots are strong. His mother, stepfather and in-laws live in the Columbus area. His family gets home for visits three or four times a year. The support he receives from his former high school and elementary teachers, coaches and classmates is constant and deeply appreciated.
“There’s lots of love for Columbus and I’m thankful for it,” said Edwards.
He is looking forward to his annual summer football camp in Billings this year because he will have a Super Bowl ring to show.
“I think that would be great to share with people,” he said.
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