HOUSTON -- As Jim Harbaugh exited the platform where he hoisted the College Football Playoff National Championship trophy, celebrating the culmination of a 15-0 season, he broke into a huge smile when he saw a familiar face.

Kevin Edwards Sr., the father of running back Donovan Edwards, wrapped Harbaugh in a big hug. The two men talked about how proud they were of Edwards. Then they told each other they loved them.

It wasn't a surprise that Michigan tried to use its ground game to reduce Washington to a pulp in its 34-13 win. And that it did, running for 303 yards -- Washington had 301 total yards -- but Blake Corum had been the pace-setter all season for the Wolverines. On Monday night, it was Edwards who started off the game by electrifying NRG Stadium with 41- and 46-yard touchdown runs in the first quarter, becoming the first player since the BCS launched in 1998 to have multiple 40-yard touchdown runs in a championship game. He finished the game with 104 yards on just six carries.

2 Related

Edwards and Corum (21 carries for 134 yards and 2 TDs) became the first pair of teammates with 100 rushing yards and two TDs each since Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson did the same against Texas in the 2010 BCS Championship game.

"I was so excited for Donovan because I just felt like he needed that," Corum said. "He's back. Dono is back."

Back to a star turn in a massive game, after months of waiting, which so far has been the story of Edwards' Michigan career.

Edwards averaged just 28.1 yards in 14 games this year before Monday night's performance. He had only three touchdowns, tying the three he had two years ago as a freshman when he had just 35 carries all season. He reached the 50-yard mark just twice this season, with exactly 50 yards on nine carries against Bowling Green and 52 yards on 10 attempts against Penn State. His longest carry of the season was 22 yards.

Then he doubled that twice in the first quarter.

"It's a beautiful feeling," Edwards said on the field after the game. "Everything is just relief right now."

Relief from a self-imposed burden he'd placed on himself to live up to his own massive expectations. That's what happens when you're a star from the time you're in pee-wee football. Edwards said after the game that he had just reconnected with his therapist to deal with some of the pressure.

"I was stressing myself," Edwards said, as streamers and confetti fell around him. "I was putting pressure on myself that I shouldn't. I just let everything be free."

He spoke to the crowds of reporters at media day Saturday about the importance of mental health. And he admits that his frustrations this seasons had hindered him.

"It's up to you to be able to rise to the occasion and remember the down times," he said. "Of course I have the feeling of being flustered, frustrated, and I definitely have been working on that. I just feel like this year has been a blessing for me. I'm in a national championship game. I have three Big Ten championship rings. I just feel like regardless of how this year has gone for me, there has been a lot more blessings in what I've been going through beyond football. Even though I know I'm still going to be great at football."

And that he was Monday night, showcasing the vision and speed that made him the No. 68 player in the 2021 ESPN 300, a Michigan high school star from West Bloomfield Township, about 40 miles from Ann Arbor who chose Michigan over Georgia, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, among others. He waited his turn as a freshman, then surged last season, particularly in big games.

In 2022, Edwards fought through nagging injuries to play in 11 games with three starts, starring in wins over No. 9 Penn State (16 carries, 173 rushing yards) and No. 4 Ohio State.

In that game against the Buckeyes, Edwards filled in for the ailing Corum under the searing lights of The Game, playing with a cast on his right hand but ripping off 85- and 75-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to polish off a 45-23 win at Ohio Stadium, finishing with 216 yards on 22 carries.

He looked like a breakout star, adding 185 yards and a touchdown against Purdue in the Big Ten Championship game and another 119 yards in the CFP semifinal loss to TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.

That loss left the Wolverines with a bad taste in their mouths. Corum decided to return for another chance at hoisting the trophy, and Edwards once again took a back seat.

Edwards sat and watched as Corum ran for 27 touchdowns, a Michigan single-season record and third-best total in Big Ten history. And he watched as Corum ran for 1,265 yards to his 511 (including the 104 in the win over the Huskies).

But he predicted he would have his big moment eventually in November, on the Michigan athletic department's podcast, "In the Trenches."

"It's not how I envisioned it to be, but it's OK, because I'm going to keep chipping," Edwards said. "My game is going to come."

That big game wasn't Dec. 2, when he made just his fourth career start in the Big Ten Championship game against Iowa, but had four carries for 28 yards. It wasn't in the Rose Bowl, when he had four carries for 11 yards in Michigan's 27-20 CFP semifinal win over Alabama. Instead, it came in the biggest of games.

Afterward, his father embraced Harbaugh, then pondered the path that brought them all together in this moment.

Donovan Edwards hugs his father on the field after winning the national championship. Dave Wilson

"Don lost his mom when he was 2 years old [to cancer]," Kevin Edwards Sr. said. "It was hard for all of us. I have another son, too. Three boys in the house, no mom. I had to do nature, and I had to do nurturing. We had to do counseling. I had to do counseling. Nothing wrong with it."

On both long touchdowns, Edwards ran into a pack in the line, made a move and raced through the Washington secondary. On the first one, he took a quick step to the left, accelerating out of traffic for a 41-yard run with 10:14 left in the first quarter. About eight minutes later, he took another handoff up the middle, bounced it off the right tackle, then sprinted 46 yards for a second score. His 87 rushing yards were the most by any player in the first quarter of a CFP game. His teammates couldn't have been prouder.

"That's my guy," Corum said. "I'm glad I got to share the backfield with Donovan. ... If he ever needed anything, best believe I'd be there for him."

"I've been honored to be his roommate for two years," quarterback J.J. McCarthy said. "Just knowing everything he goes through behind the scenes and just the man he is on a day-to-day basis, this couldn't have been a better moment for him to show out and show the world who he really is. I'm just so frickin' happy for the guy."

Kevin Edwards Sr. said he's got a great relationship with Harbaugh, who he calls "the best coach in the world."

Corum said he hoped Edwards could continue to hold strong, saying he hopes he can just celebrate the moment and not think about any decisions about his future at Michigan. His dad certainly was taking in the moment.

"He's been very, very patient, but look what we got," the elder Edwards said. "Look what we have. I mean, come on now. We have a national championship. I'm sure any kid would want to be here right now. So just wait your turn and just keep the faith and be patient."