It’s okay to not be okay: Ouachita Christian and LSU alum, Eric Edwards shares story faith and redemption after experiencing tragedy, following playing career

Sports

“So, I really wasn’t good in football until my sophomore year in high school. And so, I really wanted to quit my freshman year, “ says Edwards.

Thank goodness Eric Edwards didn’t leave football. He never would’ve been a star at OCS or LSU. The 2003 BCS Championship wouldn’t have happened either. 

“My dad made me play, “ says Edwards. “I’m glad he did. If he hadn’t done that, I may not have went to college.”

The 1998 Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year was dubbed one of the best tight ends, in the country, in high school – and in Tigers history. After graduation in 2003, the Monroe native signed a free agent contract with Arizona in 2004. After two seasons, the former Eagle called it a career. 

“My second year, that’s when I got hurt, I tore my [pectoral muscle], “ says Edwards. “I’d continue playing, and I wasn’t as good. My blocking ability. I lost a ton of strength and I just couldn’t come back from it.”

But, when the lights went out, the emotions of not doing something you love began to set in. 

“You play for so long, your identity – and your identity is in football, that’s what I was, I was a football player, “ says Edwards. “Not playing, getting released. I let everyone down. Number one tight end coming out of high school, and I don’t play. And, I basically felt like a failure to everyone.”

The life of Eric Edwards seemed perfect on the outside. Deep down, it was anything but.

“Someone has high expectations on you, you’re not as good as everyone thinks you are, “ says Edwards. “You end up getting depressed, just like my brother Tyler.” 

Tyler Edwards was the sixth best tight end in the nation during his senior season at Ouachita High School. He too suited up for the purple and gold. 

“[He was] following in my footsteps, playing tight end, went to LSU, they gave him my same number when he gets there and he fails, “ says Edwards. “[He] doesn’t finish school, deeply depressed. We’re trying to ask him, ‘Hey you need to finish school. You need to do this. You need to get a job.’ He doesn’t know how.”

On September 19, 2015, Tyler Edwards was found dead in his car in Downtown Monroe from a self-inflicted gun shot wound. 

“We had been searching for my brother for a day or two, “ says Edwards. “Dad was really concerned. He got a call from someone, they said, ‘His vehicle is off DeSiard Street, near college, ULM.’ My dad went to look at him. Saw his truck. Well he sees him in there. They bust the window out. My wife, Mary Catherine, she’s like, ‘Please do not look at him. You don’t want that to be your last memory of your brother.”

Losing Tyler sent Eric in the wrong direction.

“I lost money gambling, “ says Edwards. “My wife went on a women’s retreat. And, I basically had to tell her, ‘I lost money gambling.’ And, she was so comforting. Complete opposite of what I thought she was going to do. But, she asked me to go on a men’s retreat.”

That’s when Edwards’ eyes first opened. 

“I saw a group of men I didn’t know existed in this world, “ says Edwards. “Just kind of thinking, ‘What’s going on? We don’t talk about our struggles we hold everything in. God put me on that retreat to make me a better man, a better husband, a better father. But, what he did, he put me on that retreat to prepare me for the second half of 2015.”

Life looked up for Edwards.

“We tried having a third child, Anna Sterling, for several years, “ says Edwards. “Mary Catherine couldn’t get pregnant. A few months later, I find out she’s pregnant.”

As delivery date neared, Edwards was forced to rely on his faith more than ever. 

“I was supposed to be a team member on the next retreat, “ says Edwards. “The baby’s abdomen wasn’t growing. We’re in the hospital for eight days and I got a text from one of the retreat guys saying, ‘You just had 118 men pray for the safe delivery of your baby.’ They opened the door. Anna Sterling comes out four pounds, 14 ounces.”

After Anna Sterling’s birth, additional tragedy rocked his family. 

“My brother-in-law, sister-in-law, Jonathan and Holley Perry a month later lost their sixth month old boy, John Clarke, “ says Edwards. “A couple of weeks after that, is when our cousins Katherine and Jeff Joyce lost Katie – their seven year old daughter, Katie. They’re all buried next to each other. Those three lives have changed so many lives for the better and helped grow God’s kingdom.”

The Good Lord continues to bless Eric Edwards and his family. The father of three continues to share his messages of redemption and faith with others. But, he never forgets the journey that led him to this point.

“When I look at it now, it’s not my story, it’s God’s story, “ says Edwards. “God’s power works best through weakness. That’s what they say in the Bible. You share your weaknesses. That’s when God’s power works best. And, it’s amazing when I started to do that, I started seeing changes and differences. It was just awesome.”

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