Michigan fans were pleased to see Braylon Edwards on the sidelines at the Big House last Saturday during the game against Maryland.
The former All-American is getting a lot more involved with the team, the university, and even the media with some TV/radio time with Big Ten Network and WTKA-AM 1050 in Ann Arbor.
Edwards’ No. 1 jersey was the most popular jersey of the past 20 years. Still worn, the No. 1 jersey is one of just two numbers available to purchase, along with Jim Harbaugh’s No. 4. Although freshman Kekoa Crawford currently wears it, most fans don the 1 for Edwards and Anthony Carter, two of the players that made the number special.
Edwards set record upon record in his senior season at Michigan. He broke Michigan season marks for receptions (97) and receiving yards (1,330), along with the career records for receptions (252), receiving yards (3,541) and touchdowns (39). He was the only Big Ten player to ever record three-straight seasons with 1,000-plus receiving yards.
A consensus All-American, Edwards went on to the NFL, where was drafted third overall by the Cleveland Browns.
A short but successful career in the NFL for the former Wolverines player included the 2007 Pro Bowl. Edwards finished his professional career with 349 receptions for 5,397 yards and 40 touchdowns in eight seasons. He retired in 2012 at age 29.
Now, he’s settled in West Bloomfield, Mich., and he’s a big fan of his 9-0 Wolverines.
LandOf10: It seems, lately, that you have been a lot more involved with the program. Is there any specific reason for that?
Edwards: “I’m back home, I’m retired, I’ve played for Jim Harbaugh (in 2011 with the 49ers), and it has a lot to do with the feeling like someone wants me there involved.”
LandOf10: You said you gave a message to the team. What was that message?
Edwards: “I talked to them about leaving a legacy, and that every man is important. Everybody gets a piece of the pie. When you win a national championship, everyone might not know who the second-string kicker is, or the fifth-string cornerback is, but they all play a role.”
LandOf10: The teams you were on, especially that 2004 team, were as good as Michigan football gets. Do you see any similarities between those teams and this team?
Edwards: “There are some resemblances. I don’t think we had a player as a versatile as Jabrill (Peppers). I don’t know if they would beat us (laughs). There are some similarities. The defensive line has been outstanding, like they have Chris Wormley, and we had Lamarr Woodley and Alan Branch. They have mirror players. They have Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers, and we had Marlin Jackson and Leon Hall – both first-rounders. Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh remind me a lot of Steve Breaston and Jason Avant. And Wilton Speight reminds me a lot of John Navarre. So there are a lot of similarities between the early 2000s’ teams and this team.”
LandOf10: The No. 1 jersey might be the most famous jersey in Michigan football. You wore it, and many others. Now, Kekoa Crawford wears it. What makes him deserving of that prolific number?
Edwards: “It remains to be seen. I got to see him in practice a little bit. There’s some potential for the future, losing Darboh and Chesson, he can step up and be big next year along with Moe Ways and Eddie McDoom. I like his approach. He’s a hard worker but quiet. He’s quick in space and has good hands. I like his potential. No. 1 is one of those jersey numbers that you want to see why the coach gave out that number to a player. And I’m excited to see the journey.”
LandOf10: You have played for Jim Harbaugh, and now you’re watching him coach your team. What has he done for this program to take it from the bottom to, seemingly, the top?
Edwards: “I think he has the team and the players believing in themselves again. There was no belief in this team on a national level, or even in the Big Ten, before, and that mindset started to transition into how they played. It started with the players, then the fans, then the bloggers. I think he’s brought a good confidence back. You didn’t see growth back then. They were catching it with their chest, then the next season they weren’t with their hands. They weren’t showing growth. They were catching it with their chest, then the next season, they (still) weren’t with their hands. You didn’t see tacklers wrapping up and improving on how they wrap up season-by-season. With Coach Harbaugh, you’re seeing a consistent growth. Amara Darboh was good last season, but he’s taken it to a new level this season. With Jabrill Peppers, he had all of the tools last season, but now he’s finishing on all of those tackles, and it’s all coming together. You have to credit that growth to this staff and Coach Harbaugh.”
LandOf10: A lot of what coach Lloyd Carr preached in his days at Michigan had to do with preparation. And it seems like that is coach Harbaugh’s main priority. How important is preparation?
Edwards: “Preparation is always going to be No. 1. You win on Saturday from Sunday to Friday. They’re balancing out how they work out their mind and physicality. … When you’re taking a test in college, you can overthink, and it can take a toll on your brain. And physically, you can overwork, especially when it gets cold. It’s key to do a perfect job of balancing the physical and the mental, and not overworking either.”
Braylon Edwards in 2004/Photo via Getty Images
LandOf10: What was it like to see the Paul Bunyan Trophy back home when Michigan beat Michigan State?
Edwards: “It has been a while. And even when he was here, it was short-lived. It’s good to have Paul back home. This is where he belongs, and where he has spent the majority of his life. It’s interesting to see how quickly Michigan State has gone down. Even when Michigan was at its worst, it didn’t lost six in a row. It shows you why no one across the national syndicate has ever seen them as a top-tier team.”
LandOf10: You’ve been at numerous practices lately, the sidelines and some TV/radio action. Do you ever see yourself on this team’s staff?
Edwards: “I don’t see myself as a coach. The staff does a tremendous job, but they spend countless hours in there. Of all the coaches I’ve played for, coach Harbaugh and the 49ers staff was the most intense, long-working staff. I love the game, and I think I can coach the game, but I can’t see myself working those hours. Because in college, there’s no offseason. When the season ends, you’re recruiting. So it’d have to be the perfect fit. But I don’t see myself in that role. I would like to be in a mentor role with the team, though, and come spend a few hours at practice a couple days a week.”
LandOf10: You don’t have to say anything too bold, but this team is 9-0, and they’re beating up everyone. Do you think this team is capable of winning a championship?
Edwards: “I definitely do. To me, right now, Alabama and Michigan are equal. The only difference is Alabama has been battle-tested on the road, and Michigan hasn’t. This game against Iowa, though, is going to be better than people think. Iowa is not very good, but they’re a hostile crowd. Iowa is still, somehow, fighting for a spot in the West. I see Iowa at home fighting like its life depends on it. Everyone wants to dethrone the heir apparent, and that’s what we are – we’re the talk of the town, the talk of the nation. Everyone is going to want to play us better than any other team. But if we win this game handily, I feel really good about Ohio State. I think we’ll beat Ohio State by 10, and if we beat them, the rest is history. We’ll beat Clemson, and we’ll play Alabama – we owe them for 2012. I think, in fact I know, that if we look good against Ohio State, and not just win, but look good, then I think we’ll win it all. If we beat Ohio State, then I think we’ll make it to the playoff. But if we look good, then I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll win it all.”