Dear App State

Sep 1 2017
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Tony Ding/Icon SMI
Armanti Edwards
Toronto Argonauts
Sep 1 2017

Dear App State,

One of the coolest things you can ever experience is silencing a gigantic college football stadium overflowing with fans expecting their team to absolutely destroy your team.

Just shutting them up. All 107,000 of them.

It’s an unbelievable feeling. And that silence, I’m telling you, it’s a beautiful thing.

I know because 10 years ago, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I experienced it firsthand. After we outplayed Michigan in their own stadium and defeated the Wolverines in a game that nearly everyone outside our locker room was convinced we would lose, that stadium, and all those Michigan fans, just went completely … silent.

It was like someone flipped a switch or something.

The only sound you could hear as time expired was coming from our players and coaches screaming and yelling. Beyond that, it was … nothing.

At all.

Just dead silence.

But, you know what? That doesn’t even do the experience justice. You see, that beautiful silence isn’t really something I can describe accurately for you. It’s something that you have to go out and experience for yourself — something you have to make happen.

The only way to really know what it’s like … is to just go out and do it.

Leon Halip/Getty Images

It’s something that you have to go out and experience for yourself — something you have to make happen.

I couldn’t be more excited for you guys right now — for you to show the country what you can do, and to have your shot at bringing that silence to Georgia’s gigantic stadium. You’ve got a huge game between the hedges, and I can’t wait to see how you represent. But, before kickoff, I’ve got a few things I want to tell you.

First off, I want to talk about a certain question I know you’ve been hearing over the past few weeks leading up to this game. You’ve heard it from members of the media, and probably even from friends and classmates, too.

Do you guys actually think you have a shot in this game?

Now, I know for a fact you’ve been hearing that question because immediately before and after that win in the Big House, I was asked that same question about a million times. Especially after we won, everyone wanted to know whether, going in, we ever thought we could come out with a win against Michigan.

Did you guys actually think you had a shot?

That’s what they asked me and my teammates, again and again, for weeks after that win. And I still get asked that question 10 years later.

Well, you know what? I’m here to tell you this: That question is disrespectful. Straight up.

And not just to App State, but also to each and every one of us who, as athletes, take great pride in what we do. I know as well as you do that you’re never going to go into a game believing that you’re about to lose, because if that’s your thinking, then why are you playing, right?

So, yeah. Come on. Get out of here with that.

Tony Ding/Icon SMI

For our team, back in the day, we were coming off two consecutive national titles. And we knew we could play with anyone — no matter who they were or how big their stadium was. We were brothers, and we worked together to form a special bond on and off the field.

So we did not lack for confidence going into that Michigan game. We trained and sweated together during those preseason workouts, and then we sat in the film room for hours watching tape of Michigan’s defense struggle against the spread offense.

Damn right we thought we could win.

In fact, we believed that we would win. We knew it.

To this day, people still talk about how Michigan took us lightly, or underestimated us — and you’re probably having people ask you whether Georgia might be looking past you on their schedule. Again, that strikes me as somewhat offensive. It assumes that we were only capable of beating a so-called college football powerhouse team if they somehow messed up.

The fact is, we were ready. Plain and simple. And when we got to Ann Arbor, we were convinced that we’d come out on top.

I still remember our first walkthrough at Michigan Stadium.

For me, personally, I thought that place was going to be much bigger than it was — considering how many fans it holds. It’s all bleachers, though, so I think they kind of just squeeze people as close to each other as they possibly can. Regardless, I wasn’t going to be intimidated by some other team’s stadium. And neither were any of my teammates. I remember our bigtime safety at the time, Corey Lynch, talking to us before we suited up and just telling everyone that once we step on the field, it wouldn’t matter if there were 100 people in the stands or 100,000. It’s 11 on 11.

And then he told us that … we were the better team.

Once the game started, I was actually a bit surprised by the lack of noise at the Big House. Even after Michigan would score. I mean, you could hear the fans and everything, but it wasn’t as intense of an environment as I expected. (In fact, I can honestly say that when we played Montana my senior year, that stadium was way louder than Michigan Stadium.)

Of course, it didn’t hurt that when Michigan came out and punched us in the mouth on their first drive, and scored a touchdown, we answered right back. We showed that we weren’t going to just roll over … and then we made it clear, by scoring a bunch of points in the first half, that we weren’t simply looking to keep the game close. After a while, you could tell that their guys had realized that this wasn’t going to be an easy win. And when we went into halftime up 11, I think most Michigan fans were kind of shocked.

But their players seemed down, too — like they didn’t have the same spring in their step coming out of halftime as they did when the game started.

For us, things had gone exactly as we expected — we knew we could hang with Michigan, and put points on the board against that defense. When we noticed that the Michigan players seemed to be dragging a little bit, it pumped us up even more.

There was obviously a ton of game left at that point, but sometimes you can just tell, you know? And I definitely want you guys to keep an eye out for that type of thing against Georgia. If and when you sense those guys showing signs of weakness, I want you to keep your foot on the pedal.

Duane Burleson/AP Images

Damn right we thought we could win.

When Michigan scored to take the lead with about four minutes left in the game, everyone in that stadium probably thought that was that. Game over.

Not us, though.

Not even close.

We knew they’d left us way too much time on the clock. But we also knew that we were not going to allow ourselves to lose that game no matter how much time was left.

In that last four minutes, we made a field goal to take the lead and blocked not one but two Michigan field goals to preserve the win.

Corey, the guy who had gotten us pumped up before the game, and told us that our team was better than Michigan’s, was the one who made the final block to clinch it. So, in a way, it kind of all came together perfectly. As he was running down the field with the ball, I ran on the field too, without even really knowing what I was doing. I was just so excited at that point. I’m glad no refs saw me!

When time expired, I just remember feeling all of the adrenaline leave my body at once. There was a huge sigh of relief, and then I instantly felt tired.

But a second later I forgot all about how tired I was because….

We had completely silenced Michigan Stadium, and it felt absolutely amazing.

Chuck Burton/AP Images

Back home in Boone, it was like we had won the national title.

We couldn’t even get the bus back into the facility because there were so many people there waiting for us. They were rocking the bus back and forth, and screaming their lungs out.

It was just special. That whole experience was.

But one of the main things I want to get across to you here is that every game has to be special. And I know that Coach Satterfield has been telling you that all summer.

I know you guys have been working hard to get ready for this one, and that it’s going to be fun opening up against one of the top teams in the country. But don’t get caught up in all the hype.

Prepare hard, like you would for any game. And know that if you do so, and you play smart on Saturday, and follow through on the game plan that Coach Satterfield has worked up, and stay disciplined, you’re going to have a great shot to come home with a victory.

That’s just a fact.

And here’s another one for you: Those Georgia players are human beings, the same as you. They’re not immortal. They’re not gods. They’re just college football players, like you. And like those Michigan Wolverines were a decade ago in Ann Arbor.

Of course, you don’t need me to tell you these things. You know them already. And you know — as an individual, and together, as a team — that you can win this game on Saturday. You’ve prepared, and worked hard, and developed a bond that will provide this team with all it needs to prevail.

You know that in your hearts.

So now all you need to do is take that knowledge and confidence into Athens on Saturday and show those Dawgs what App State is all about.

Bring the silence to that stadium on Saturday, Mountaineers.

I’m telling you, there’s nothing like doing that.

—Armanti Edwards, Class of 2009

Armanti Edwards
Toronto Argonauts