Armanti as quarterback?
To Mountaineer legend turned Carolina Panther Armanti Edwards, it's a record he's never seen before.
But the four-time All American and two-time Walter Payton Award winner's in a new league now and, instead of donning the quarterback cleats, his new coach, John Fox is utilizing Edwards' speed as a wide receiver.
Edwards, who has only been allowed to play one NFL game, isn't making headlines in the big leagues, at least not like he did at Appalachian State University, where, after a 34-32 victory over Michigan, it wasn't uncommon for ESPN to swing by Kidd Brewer Stadium.
The Panthers officially have the worst record in the NFL, a far cry from Edwards' college record of 42-7. The losses create a whole new set of headlines.
That's where fans like Robert Sutton come in. On Oct. 11, he started a Facebook petition called "Petition to bring in Armanti Edwards as Quarterback."
Within the first 24 hours, he had 200 signatures. Then the group went viral.
"The other day there was a poll on the Charlotte Observer website, and it asked a question, 'Which quarterback should the Panthers switch to?' It only gave three choices ... but almost 90 percent of the comments were 'Bring in Armanti,'" Sutton said.
Sutton, a Salisbury native who never even attended a Mountaineer game, wished there had been that fourth option: Armanti. That's when he created the petition.
"I really think that the Panthers are making a huge mistake," Sutton said. "I think that we've pretty much seen what Matt Moore can do what (Jimmy) Clausen can do. It's basically nothing. Right now, the Panthers are 0 and 5. Let me put it this way. What's the worst that can happen? It can't get any worse."
And that's what people are saying, both on his petition page and on the Panthers' Facebook page, fans like Michael Linkroum.
"Hey, it's not like the Panthers are going to the playoffs," Linkroum writes. "Let him play around 10 snaps in a game and see what happens."
"What do we have to lose?" Kendrick Stayz Villines writes. "Try it out for a week."
And he did. Edwards ran two plays in the Mountaineer formation (the Panthers' version of the Wildcat) in the Panthers' loss to the Chicago Bears two weeks ago. The first play lost 6 yards on a reverse to fellow rookie David Gettis. Edwards gained 7 yards on a keeper on the second play.
As of Wednesday morning, the Facebook group had more than 1,330 members.
The fan support is no surprise to his friends at Appalachian, friends like assistant athletic director Mike Flynn.
"Obviously, that's a testament to Armanti and how he was able to draw in the community, not just with his talent on the field but with his demeanor and his personality," he said. "Personally, I think that if he got a shot to play quarterback at the NFL he would excel ... but I also think he'll excel, if given time, at the wide receiver position."
Flynn, like others, isn't surprised at Fox's decision to change Edwards' position.
"We heard that from scouts all the way through," he said. "Coach Fox's opinion there is not unique."
And, according to WATA sports commentator Mike Kelly, Edwards' third round draft pick was a gamble either way.
"It's an experiment, and whatever you think about it, in John Fox's eyes, the experiment failed, I hate to say it," he said.
While Kelly said he'd like to see Edwards get more play time "because he could do it," he'd be surprised if it happened.
"What he should do is play in Canada," Kelly said, suggesting the B.C. Lions. "He'd be a household name ... If the Panthers aren't going to use him, he should find a team that will."
Kelly compared Edwards to Doug Flutie, an NFL player whose real fame came from playing in the Canadian Football League.
Another commentator, David Jackson, voice of the Mountaineers, also thinks Edwards could surprise Charlotte.
"While he was here, he proved he could do just about anything," Jackson said. "I think if they gave him a shot, I think he would do very well ... he just needs a chance."
Looking through Armanti Edwards shots is a nostalgic occupation for Watauga Democrat sports photographer Rob Moore.
"I'd love to see him in a Panther's uniform for a pass like that," he said, eying a shot from last year's victory over Georgia Southern.
If Sutton has his way, Moore just might.
"I think it could happen," Sutton said.
It's more than a Facebook group to Sutton. It's a cause.
"In order to start a fire, all it takes is one little spark, and Armanti, in my heartfelt opinion, is that little spark," he said.
To people like Charlotte's Michael Smith, who writes, "Edwards is not an NFL quarterback ... Edwards is not the answer; sorry, guys, but playing the Falcons and Saints is different than playing Elon and Wofford."
Sutton just repeats the argument.
"This team needs a spark," he said. "It takes a spark to start a fire."
Whether Edwards is that spark remains to be certain. In the meantime, Matt Moore is slated to start as quarterback for Sunday's game against San Francisco.
As of press time, Edwards could not be reached for comment.
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