How Kansas State won recruiting battle for coveted Derby running back Dylan Edwards

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Dylan Edwards had a surprising response when Kansas State offensive coordinator Collin Klein asked him last weekend what the Wildcats needed to do to in order to convince him to wear purple as a college football player.

Edwards, a 5-foot-9 and 165-pound running back from Derby with scholarship offers from blue-blood programs like Nebraska and Oklahoma, looked Klein dead in the eye and said “nothing.”

That word caught Klein off guard. Edwards was in Manhattan for an official recruiting visit at the time, but he wasn’t expected to make a college decision until July, after he made trips to five different schools.

Did this mean he was ready to speed up the process and commit to K-State?

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go in there right now to Coach (Chris) Klieman and commit,’” Edwards recalled.

Edwards publicly shared his decision Thursday during a ceremony at Derby High School, where he wore a purple K-State hat and flashed a white K-State shirt after announcing his intentions to play for the Wildcats.

He held scholarship offers from more than 20 schools and could have gone just about anywhere after rushing for 2,603 yards and 38 touchdowns while leading Derby to the Kansas Class 6A state championship game last season. Afterward, he was named Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year.

But he felt a special connection with the Wildcats.

“Before I went on my visit we got in the car to go to Manhattan and I told my mom something about this just felt so exciting,” Edwards said. “The car ride felt different, the music felt different. Everything was really different. I just felt like, wow, it’s time. Right when I got there I was like, this is where I want to be.”

K-State was the first school that offered Edwards a scholarship. That made a difference, even as some recruiting experts predicted him to go elsewhere.

“I saw how loyal they were,” Edwards said. “They came here the most out of any school. They talked to me every day. I got on a call with them every day. There was not a day that went by, even on Christmas. They called me in the morning to say, ‘Hey, Merry Christmas.’ You just don’t get that anywhere else.

“I was crystal-balled to different places before K State and they didn’t care. They were coming for me the whole time and that shows that they’re loyal.”

Edwards made his decision in front of a packed gym inside his school. He chose the home-state Wildcats over a long list of other suitors, including Iowa State, Jackson State, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.

His commitment is a major recruiting victory for Klieman, who has struggled at times when trying to lure top in-state prospects to Manhattan. But that narrative is beginning to change.

Not only is Edwards one of the highest-rated players whom Klieman has landed with the Wildcats, he is also the third ranked player in the Sunflower State for 2023, according to Rivals.

Edwards became one of the most heavily recruited football prospects in the Wichita area following a sensational junior season with the Panthers. Both Kansas and K-State made him a recruiting priority. Many other schools did the same. Edwards announced a list of 10 finalists in the spring and strongly considered three of them before making his decision. Edwards made official recruiting visits to K-State, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

The Wildcats clearly made a strong impression on him, as he opted to end his recruitment during his visit to campus last weekend.

His father, Leon, who used to play running back at K-State under Bill Snyder, was brought to tears when his son quietly committed to his alma mater on Father’s Day.

“We got to experience a lot of exciting things during this recruitment process,” Leon said. “But nothing compared to that. It was awesome.”

Fun as it was for Edwards to talk to college coaches and visit college campuses all across the country, some part of him has to relieved that his recruitment has drawn to a close.

Now he can look forward to the future, knowing exactly where he’s going to play in college. He already seems all-in.

“I wanted to do what was best for me during this process, and K-State is what’s best for me,” Edwards said. “I don’t see myself de-committing or leaving or doing anything like that. This is where I want to be. This is where I’m going to live. EMAW forever.”