SCHENECTADY – First he was pulled.
Then he was pushed.
Jack Edwards didn’t see himself as an athlete, much less a star. But sometimes you get lucky and forces that could propel you in that direction suddenly appear, and then it’s on you to recognize them and take advantage of them.
Edwards did so, and a long line of accolades for his achievement will continue with his induction as a member of the Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2022.
An end on the Mont Pleasant High School team that went 6-1-1 in 1959, Edwards also crossed over to track and field at the suggestion of legendary coach Larry Mulvaney, and excelled there, too, setting multiple meet records in the low hurdles.
Absent a father figure during those important years of his development, the 80-year-old Edwards credited coaches like Mulvaney, Ray Vacca and Tony Parisi for channeling the ability he didn’t even realize he had.
“They believed in me, and it made me a better person,” he said. “That’s what I can say I got from my senior year in ’59, but also my junior year and freshman year, is they believed that I could overcome and could do things that I didn’t think I could do.”
First, gravity had to do its thing.
Edwards had no intention of trying out for football in high school, but was attracted to it for the simple fact that his best friend Denny Gerardi was doing it.
“When we were at Central, the junior high, he says, ‘Oh, I’m going out for football,’” Edwards said. “And I said, ‘Oh, OK, I’ll go out for football, too.’ It was never in my mind. I never participated in athletics in junior high school.”
He landed into a situation and environment where whatever potential he had, it would be drawn out of him.
By the time Edwards was a senior in 1959, he was well on his way to Scholastic Magazine Football All-American status, the Thom McAn Award and an appearance in the 1960 Prep All-American Football Classic.
He caught five touchdown passes that season as Mont Pleasant went 6-1-1, with a loss to White Plains and a tie with Utica Free Academy.
Perhaps most importantly, Mont Pleasant “beat Linton really badly,” Edwards said with a laugh, about the ferocious annual crosstown rivalry game.
The Prep Classic was held in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in front of over 23,000 spectators.
Edwards caught the only four passes completed by his team.
“I was an All-American. I was stunned by that,” Edwards said. “I was going, ‘Me?’ And got to play with some outstanding players. Bud Wilkinson’s son and Jerry Rhome. It just was all surreal.
“Eye-popping. It rained the whole game. I caught the only four passes thrown in the entire game. Dick Groat was the speaker at the dinner, and that was amazing. I won the Thom McAn Award.
“I’m a pretty laid-back person, and all of that was pretty overwhelming. I took at everything as it came, and always was like, ‘You’re kidding me.’ Right? There are so many other good athletes, how did I get all these awards? How did all of it happen? I have no idea.”
As a hurdler in the winter and spring, Edwards was Section II Class A champion three times in the 180 and twice at 120.
He set meet records in the Section II championship meet, Utica Invitational, Rye Invitational and posted a meet-record 19.4 in the 180 at the Schenectady Interscholastic Sports Carnival.
“When the football season was over, Larry Mulvaney said, ‘Why don’t you run indoor track?’” Edwards said. “So we ran indoor track at Union College, and then I got into it in the spring. He thought it would be good for my size, for my muscles, keeping me in condition for football. It was just one of those things where he thought it was a good idea, so I did it.
“That’s how simple it was. I could’ve gone into high school and not done anything.”
The paternal void existed because Edwards’ father was serving his third prison term, for a jewelry store robbery when Edwards was in third grade.
His father died when Edwards was a sophomore at Boston University, where he was a letterwinner in football.
Edwards went on to join the Marines and served in Vietnam before working for a manufacturing company, for which he eventually became president, after the war.
He has been living in North Carolina for 27 years and is in is fifth term as mayor of Pineville, near Charlotte.
“The dynamics of what goes on, and when you try to go back 60 years and frame up, I’m the type of person that moves on from life. I really don’t concentrate on what happened,” Edwards said. “When I got the call from [SCSDAHOF coordinator] Bob [Pezzano] about being inducted, it’s a great thing. But I guess I look at my whole high school life with track, with the hurdles and with the wonderful coaches I had who put stuff into me that I didn’t get from my dad.
“They weren’t just coaches. These are people that built you up rather than tearing you down.
“And I look back on them and tell my wife and my kids that I had coaches that built you up and made you want to do that extra step, that extra time, that extra effort, that extra hit on someone.”