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June 16, 2011
Remember the 1998 NFL draft? Okay, maybe you don't but to refresh your memory that's the draft that Hines Ward was in and Payton Manning went number one overall. And in that same draft Georgia running back sensation Robert Edwards was taken in the first round and 18th overall by the New England Patriots. Rushing for 1115 yards his rookie season, Edwards had the world at his fingertips until he suffered a knee injury at the rookie flag football game that year. An injury so bad that doctors almost had to amputate his leg and told Edwards he may never walk again.
Despite the ominous diagnosis, Edwards would return to the game he loved. Edwards overcame the odds and made his comeback to the NFL in 2002, scoring two touchdowns in his first game back with the Miami Dolphins.? Although Edwards would later lose his spot with the Dolphins, that same year he was awarded the Pro Football Writers Association Halas Award for his amazing comeback to the game. Edwards continued his football career in the Canadian football league until 2008 when the Argonauts released him. Though his professional football career had ended, Edwards could never leave the game.
UGASports.com caught up with Edwards recently at the Football University Camp to see what life's been like after his playing days, his views on Georgia football, and some of his favorite memories of the game.
Edwards has stayed busy. He coaches football at Arlington Christian School in Fairburn, GA and even started his own 7-on-7 camp. In between getting his coaching career started and camp off the ground, Edwards likes to share his advice and experience with other young aspiring running backs. But the kids aren't he only ones learning.
"Well it's been a learning experience for both the kids and me. With last year being my first year to coach, it helped me tremendously working with kids. Figuring out personalities, trying to get the kids to realize 'Yeah you can do this and no you can't do that.' And at he same time it allowed me to give back to the running backs and shed light on the position. Show them it's not all about he glamour, it takes a lot of work, a lot of effort, and a lot of drills. Teaching your body how to mentally and physically react. I tell them running backs are a reaction position. You're doing pretty much everything. You're the second most important position on offense. You got to block like the linemen, kick in like the receiver, nobody runs he ball like you do. The only thing is you don't pass the ball like the quarterback, but some do so you got to know everything. Know what everyone is doing. I try to tell them it's not just a luxury position," Edwards explained. "We are ready to line up and the last one to leave the huddle. You got to be disciplined. It's a a lot of dirty work too."
Edwards also stresses that being a utility player is crucial to separating great running backs from the rest of the crowd.
"I'm telling them now that you got to have this part of the game in your repertoire, you don't want to be a third down back you want to be a first and second down back. You wan to be an all around back," Edwards stated. "A lot of team have two backs running, you got your back for first and second down and then you got your back for passing. You want to be the back that can be both; a utility player."
Recruiting today different than when Edwards was in school, especially with all the 7-on-7 camps and recruiting service providing film and analysis of players.
"I don't remember a camp except our own that we had at our high school. I'm telling our kids it's different now. Use to, coaches came to the school, now they send out services to narrow down where they are going. So now if they hit the road they got an agenda," said Edwards.
With all the coaching and running back talk, it was only natural to ask Edwards what he loves most, coaching or playing?
"Man I love playing, there's never going to be a substitute for that but this (coaching) allows me to be around the game, and I get excited to be on the sidelines, Edwards acknowledged. "I'm enjoying coaching, it's my first year doing it. It's something I definitely want to progress in the ranks and see what I can do."
With a short yet standout career and playing football so close to his heart, it isn't a surprise that Edwards couldn't pick just one standout moment from his stellar Georgia career.
"Hmm, there are three moments that stand out to me. Georgia wise, my transition from moving from corner back to running back. As soon as I switched to running back everyone knew who Robert Edwards was. Second is my first game ever at running back, were I scored five touchdowns in the second half of the South Carolina game," Edwards recalled. "My third is beating Florida. We hadn't beaten them in so long and I was set to go there but had a falling out with coach (Steve) Spurrier. So it felt great to bring that win back to Georgia."
How close was Edwards to signing with the arch-rival Gators?
"My dad didn't appreciate the pressure Spurrier put on me. Spurrier was like, 'If you don't sign today we may not have a spot for you tomorrow.' And that's how he got a lot of his players. Because once you stepped inside his office he expected you to sign a letter of intent right there...I wanted to go with Spurrier and probably would have come back the next day to say I was going to Florida but since he put on that pressure I decided with Georgia."
Edwards believes that Spurrier has more patience with the recruiting process these days. He also believes that Georgia's 2011 class is a "great class but they need to be a standout class".
With Boise State and South Carolina on deck for the first two games if the season, Georgia and their top notch recruiting class have every chance to prove what kind of standout team they can be.
"I think if we can get past Boise and South Carolina there will be a lot of confidence for that football team, "Edwards said. "To win those games will be great, just got to keep the guys focused and keep them on ground level."
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