Favorite athlete: Joe Embiid
Favorite team: 76ers
Favorite memory competing in sports: My club team played a Canadian team in Rochester, New York. It was the first time I played a team from a different country, and we beat them in a hard fought match.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I was playing in a tournament for Club Lehigh volleyball and went up to block a hitter. The ball smashed me in the face, and my nose started bleeding.
Music on mobile device: Tobymac, Lecrae
Future plans: I will be attending Saint Francis University to play Division One volleyball. I will be majoring in Business Management with a concentration in Aviation.
Words to live by: Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
One goal before turning 30: Gradate college and get a job with a major airline.
One thing people don’t know about me: I lifeguard in Quakertown.
By Ed Morrone
Although named after a fictional villain, Cross Edwards gravitated toward the sport with the most good guys he could find on the court.
Edwards recently wrapped his fourth season as a member of the Pennridge High School boys volleyball program, winners of three district titles during his very successful tenure on the court. There’s much that sticks out about Edwards — his chosen sport, his skills on the court, his obsessive interest in aviation — but perhaps nothing more than that eye-catching first name.
“My parents came up with it after seeing a movie in the 1980s,” Edwards recounted. “I can’t remember the name of it, but there was a villain named Cross and for some reason they just really liked that. It’s kind of funny, because they also have always had a devotion to their Christian backgrounds. They enjoyed the name and just rolled with it. It’s not a common one, but I love it. It’s worked out well.”
With a name like Cross, Edwards was always destined to stand out, and volleyball offered him his best chance to shine.
Edwards first picked up an interest in the sport from his father, who played volleyball in law school. Father and son would play on the beach, and Edwards became a kid “who was always bumping a volleyball around” while growing up. He played a couple of years in a rec league before starting to really learn the competitive side of the sport at the high school level from Pennridge varsity head coach Dave Childs.
“I played high school basketball too, and with my dad being an all-around sports guy, I was always playing something,” Edwards said. “Basketball, soccer, tennis, racquetball, but volleyball was my main thing, the one I got hooked on and enjoyed the most. Honestly, it was the team aspect; not only was it a sport where you can’t just rely on one player to carry you, but when I first started playing, they were just the nicest kids I had ever met.
“In basketball, it stuck out to me from a young age that the kids were just not the nicest. Volleyball players are more laid back and easy to talk to, and that’s players at all levels. It made me overjoyed every time I got a chance to play to the point that it’s become addictive. Everyone on the team was always positive and encouraging, regardless of how we might be feeling.”
For a young kid breaking into a competitive program, the encouragement and support from teammates helped build Edwards’ confidence from an early stage. Freshman year was mostly a learning campaign, with Edwards suiting up for a couple varsity matches and being with the team during its first of three consecutive district championships from 2015-17. Even so, Childs knew right away he had a talented player in his midst.
“I knew then he could be pretty good by his senior year just by getting him into it a little bit and seeing what the sport could offer at a higher level,” Childs said. “From his sophomore year on, he was a starter for us at outside hitter, a big role on the team even as a sophomore.
“The way we run things, he’s basically our number one passing option, and Cross is a phenomenal hitter. After sophomore year, his role really changed and he took on more responsibilities on the court. With greater responsibility, the better he became, and that continued to progress into his junior and senior seasons.”
Like most competitors, Edwards’ motivation to play comes from his desire to win. The winning tradition of Pennridge volleyball allowed him to pursue his passion all while being mentored in how to become a better leader.
“I wanted to be a leader on the court to see how stressful a leadership role can be,” he said. “It’s great practice for real life. It pushed me to get better, to pursue different club teams outside of high school, to follow in the steps of the good players I looked up to. I wanted to be better than them; I’m not sure if I ever was, but that mentality helped with my time management. When you’re an adult with a job, managing your time becomes harder to do, so it’s prepared me for life by helping to balance my workload. Like most competitive sports, volleyball is great for that.”
It’s certainly worked out well for Edwards, as he parlayed his work ethic and love for the game into an opportunity to play Division-I volleyball at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa., located roughly in between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.
Edwards began playing for Club Lehigh at the urging of former teammate Ben Chinnici, a three-time all-state selection at Pennridge who is now at Ball State University. As he’s risen through the ranks at Pennridge and through the competitive nature of the club circuit, Edwards knew he wanted to continue his volleyball career at the next level. There was an intoxicating allure of being one of the leaders of a successful program, especially with the mental fortitude Edwards found out it took.
“It’s not only the hitting and the passing,” he said. “It’s the mental aspect it takes to be encouraging to your teammates no matter what. That was something I had to get used to more this year as a senior leader. If I was angry out there, that wouldn’t reflect well on the team. In a rough situation, you’ve got to calm down and stay positive no matter what. That’s something the seniors in Ben’s class always did, I wanted to be that kid that remained calm and cool and encouraging, even if someone made an error.
“When I looked at Saint Francis, I saw an opportunity to play competitive, D-I volleyball, but also the challenge again of having to earn my spot on the court.”
When he’s not playing volleyball — a true rarity — Edwards is a lifeguard in Quakertown. He is also heavily-involved in his church, First Baptist Church of Perkasie, located a short distance from Pennridge. Edwards said growing up in the church has helped him learn the virtues of selflessness, which is reflected in his persona on the volleyball court as someone who people can rely on when in need of assistance.
“God has blessed me in my life, and my number one thing on the court is that I don’t want to be selfish or someone people hate,” Edwards said. “When I play, I want to be a light on the court. My actions point to God, and I’m not playing for anyone else but Him. I like to help people and get involved with community service and with my church, just getting out and trying to spend my time doing stuff that’s not stupid.”
Another reason Edwards chose to attend Saint Francis beyond its competitive volleyball program is the ability to focus his education on another thing he’s passionate about: aviation. The school allows interested students to earn a bachelor’s degree and a private or commercial pilot’s license at the same time. Edwards will pursue the field of business management with a concentration in aviation. Planes have always intrigued him as he’s gotten to travel all over the world.
He’s done some flying in small four-seat airplanes, and while he’s not grabbed control of the sticks just yet, the challenges of being responsible and figuring out how to adapt when things go wrong in the air are some of the same allures that drew him to the volleyball court.
“I was flying back home for a volleyball tournament after a weekend youth retreat, and there had been this big snowstorm,” Edwards recalled. “It was going to be a four-hour drive, but my dad had a buddy who sent a small plane to pick me up. It was the craziest ride I’ve ever been on, like a roller coaster with how rough the air was.
“I enjoyed the thrill of it, the challenge of having to get out of a tough situation and be able to land. As soon as I was out of the air, I was hooked on it, and I knew I wanted to learn to fly, get a degree in it and eventually fly for a major airline. I haven’t had flight lessons yet, but I want to get my pilot’s license. Even though it’s a little nerve-wracking, I’m excited to see where it takes me.”
Childs, who has been the coach at Pennridge for 15 years, has no doubt that Edwards will succeed at the collegiate level, both on the court and off.
“He’ll really listen to those coaches and put in the time and effort,” the Rams’ coach said. “Cross is a guy who is into a lot of different things, with volleyball and his church and his family, so it’s been a pleasure to watch him grow into something I believe will translate to the next level. I think I’m more excited to follow the next chapter of his career than I am going to miss coaching him, because I know he’s only going to continue to grow as a player. One of my favorite things about coaching is seeing these kids come in as awkward freshmen who have never played the game or know what it is and then seeing where it’s helped take them 10 years later.”
Edwards understands that both his first name, as well as the sport he plays, are a bit unorthodox and off the beaten mainstream path, but he wouldn’t change any of it for a second.
“I’ll always look back at how nice everyone was to me, how there was no hierarchy and I could ask the seniors as many questions as I wanted,” Edwards said. “Guys like Ben Chinnici, they were a huge part of the player I’ve become, and never got annoyed with me as I followed them around. I’ll always be thankful for that. How hard they worked on me became how hard I worked on others as a leader.
“I’ll be redshirting next year at Saint Francis, so I think I’ll miss all those friends I made over the years as I learn a new culture and new game. The players and coaches who mentored me into the player I am today, that’s definitely what I’ll miss the most.”