Jenks senior Will Edwards was recently named Oklahoma’s Boy’s Soccer Gatorade Player of the Year for the second straight year. Quite an accomplishment for a player who could have easily walked away from the game he loved three years ago.
Edwards lost two siblings in a tragic car accident in 2017 that rocked the Jenks community and the Trojan soccer program. It was a tough introduction for Eric Marshall, who was named head coach just a few days after the crash.
“In the beginning, I wanted to show him and his family my support, inside soccer and out,” recalled Marshall. “I kind of left it open to him, if he wanted to continue playing or not. Going through something like that, it was very fresh, very recent. I said I’ll be there for you whether you want to play soccer or not.”
“I think it was something that helped him through that process, kind of gave him a safe space and some time to forget about things a little bit,” added Marshall. “We kind of wrapped our arms around him and provided him whatever he and his family needed. He didn’t really talk about it much. I know it was difficult for him, but he kind of let his play and his dedication to the sport take over.”
“It was definitely a shock to see how many people were in favor of my family and I trying to get through it and helping out in any way possible,” stated Edwards. “It just reflects on who the Jenks community really is. It helps so much that the community I was raised in had my back. I just wanted to keep going and work hard for them because I don’t know if I would be who I am without them having my back.”
The hard work paid off for Edwards, who led the Trojans to the state title match in 2018 and 2019. After suffering a tough loss to crosstown rival Union in the title game his sophomore season, he led Jenks to a thrilling, penalty kicks victory over the Redskins in the state championship game the next season.
“It’s probably the best thing that happened in high school for me,” said Edwards, who will continue his soccer career this fall at the University of Tulsa. “Just because we lost the previous year. To come back and beat a really good Union team, it was very fulfilling.”
“Last year was a pretty special season for us,” recalled Marshall. “Will was the mainstay, one of those players that played the full 90 minutes and was rarely substituted. He was instrumental in us having the run we did during that championship season.”
“It definitely was very frustrating, just because the seniors were all pretty close and we wanted to defend our title,”remarked Edwards, who grew up playing with the Tulsa Soccer Club. “It definitely was unfortunate, but it was the right call to make for the community. Looking back on it, I think it was the right decision.”
Losing the majority of his senior season was a tough break, but being named the state’s top player for the second straight year helped take the sting out of the frustrating circumstances.
“It’s definitely a blessing to win it two years in a row,” said Edwards of the Gatorade honor. “I was very fortunate to have a really good junior season and I feel like a lot of this year’s award was based on last year’s season. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and definitely not without Coach Marshall and my parents.”
“Will is one of those kind of players where he’s a leader on and off the field,” stated Marshall. “He takes those traits pretty seriously. He’s a die-hard soccer enthusiast. Even when he was a sophomore, he had that leader quality with him.”
After being embraced so much following the tragedy, Edwards decided he wanted to give back by getting involved in other school activities. He became very active in student council.
“I was an officer my senior year and we raised around $36,000 for Make-A-Wish kids in Jenks and Oklahoma,” said Edwards, who maintained a 3.71 GPA while at Jenks. “That was a huge part of high school that I’ll remember more than a lot of other things because I feel like it was my way of giving back to the Jenks community after they poured so much into me.”
“He was just a special player for me as a coach,” claimed Marshall. “You don’t get those kind of kids, they come around very rare in a coaching career. I was very blessed to have him the three years that I did.”