Some gray is starting to spread through his beard, but when he talks about making a football comeback 25 years after playing his last game — in Pop Warner — the little boy comes back and there is a sparkle in his eyes.
At 37, without ever playing a single down throughout his four years at Paradise Valley High School, Phoenix resident Matthew Edison is recapturing his youth by playing for the Papago Pumas, the newest addition to the five-team Hohokam Junior College Athletic Association that started in mid-June.
“Ever since I got out of high school, I basically chased money,” Edison said. “That’s what it was all about. I wanted a house. Then, I wanted cars, and boats and ATVs. I wanted it, I wanted it, I wanted it. I wasn’t afraid to work hard, so work took precedence over everything.
“Then family came in, and it was family and work over everything.”
His wife is a stay-at-home mom with their three children ranging in age from 13 to 6. And being part-owner of a contracting business, Edison feels he is in position to chase something else he wants.
When his childhood friend, Matt Mason, the Pumas’ defensive coordinator, made a Facebook post three weeks ago, seeking players with college eligibility, Edison answered it.
“Matt was one of the first guys to reach out to me,” Mason said. “When you have somebody reaching out to you and wanting more, it makes it easy when recruiting people. He was probably the easiest recruit. He knew what he wanted to do.”
After a day of work, Edison heads over to Mesa High School’s football field — the Pumas’ home base — and punts and kicks a football during informal summer workouts with the team.
Edison will be the punter, the backup placekicker and, if they need him on defense, he can play in the secondary or at linebacker. The season opens Aug. 24 against the Salt River Scorpions.
Edison is easily the oldest player on the roster. The next oldest graduated from high school 10 years ago.
Most of his teammates were born in 2000, the year Edison graduated from Paradise Valley High.
When his 20-year high school reunion comes up next year, Edison, will have some new stories to tell.
“I’m just out here having fun, supporting Matt, supporting the team, doing anything I can to help,” Edison said.
One thing he has already done, through Robco Inc., and Arizona BINSR Repair — the commercial and residential contractor business of which he is part-owner — is helping sponsor the team by paying for practice gear and shirts and shorts before the league starts in August.
“Stepping up and doing whatever we can to be part of the team,” Edison said.
This will also be the first time Edison is taking college courses. He went straight to work out of high school, joining the construction business owned by the father of the girl he was dating in high school.
His relationship with the daughter didn’t last. But the business partnership with the dad took off after high school.
Lifting heavy windows and doors have kept him in shape.
So has hockey. He played hockey through high school and has not stopped playing since, competing in adult roller and ice leagues in the Valley.
Papago head coach Ron Sowers said Edison has adapted well to football so far.
“He’s an excellent role model and leader for the kids, because he’s here on time, early, already working, doing what he’s supposed to do,” Sowers said. “It’s great to have an older guy who said, ‘I wish I would have, and now I’m going to live that dream.’ This is what second-chance junior college football is all about. This is an opportunity for them to fulfill that.”
Matthew Edison never played football in high school but he’s ready to relive his Pop Warner days in the new Hohokam Junior College Athletic Association.
Richard Obert, azcentral sports
The Papago Pumas are seven months behind the other three Valley teams in the Hohokam league. Papago announced plans for a team in mid-June.
When Sowers tweeted on June 15 that he was going to be the head coach, adding, “if you are a player with eligibility and looking to play some football, DM me,” it got nearly 500 likes.
The first tryout was two days later.
Edison hasn’t missed a workout.
“He said, ‘I’ve never been to college but if you give me a chance to relive this situation, you won’t regret it,”’ said Eddie Fuenmayor, recruiting coordinator for the Pumas. “He’s in better shape than the coaches. He’s young at heart.”
Edison said it is important that junior college football remains a fabric in Arizona. He sees it as bridge for players beyond high school, seeking opportunities when the fire for the game is still burning.
Maricopa County Community College District shut down the sport at Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Glendale at the end of the 218 season because of financial reasons. Coaches, families and players were left looking for football opportunities.
Then came the Hohokam league, where the teams are using high school football facilities across the Valley to practice and play games, and seeking sponsorship help.
“The craziest part is that out-of-state kids are sending me film,” said Sowers, a former Arizona State lineman, whose main business is tutoring young offensive and defensive linemen in the Valley. “We’re still kind of piecing it together, but it’s coming along OK.
“Everybody right now in this league is looking for O-line, D-line, linebackers. Those are the hardest creatures to find. I get teased, ‘Don’t you coach offensive and defensive linemen?’ I say, ‘Yeah, but they’re all getting scholarships.”’
Football is an expensive sport, and it will take outside help to keep the teams afloat.
Edison’s wife and kids have given him his blessing to be part of this.
He says at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, he is 55 pounds heavier than he was when he left high school. A punter, place kicker and backup quarterback in his last year in Pop Warner, Edison booms the ball high in the air on punts.
“Through practice, it’s really coming back,” Edison said. “As far punting, I can still boot the heck out of the ball. That’s kind of where my strength is. As far as tackling people and hitting people, we haven’t gotten to that. But I’m much bigger now, so I definitely think I’ll fit in when it comes to that.”
It’s not like he is hoping Arizona State or Alabama will come along and offer him a scholarship.
It’s simply a chance to relive a part of his youth that he wished he kept doing in high school.
“Unfortunately, I’m 37, but better late than never,” he said.
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