LAKE BUENA VISTA– When Herman Edwards was graduating Monterey High School in Monterey, CA back in 1972 there was no Under Armour All-American game. In fact, the company Under Armour wasn’t even being thought of because its founder, Kevin Plank, wasn’t born until August of that year.
When Edwards was a high school senior he said there were only four shoe companies: Pony, Puma, Adidas and Converse. Now, 41 years later, the game and the shoes have most certainly changed and Edwards finds himself coaching Team Nitro in a game sponsored by a shoe company that didn’t exist when he was a standout high school player.
Edwards had a productive playing career as a cornerback in the NFL after signing with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of San Diego State in 1977. He played nine seasons including a Super Bowl appearance and was twice named Second-Team All-NFC as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. He then went on to a 21-year coaching career that ended in 2008. His primary job now is as an ESPN on-air personality. He talked to Gator Country about the significance of coaching high school kids in the Under Armour game.
“Well it’s a lot of fun in the fact that they’re a piece of clay,” Edwards said. “Lot of talent, most of these kids have really been well coached. You can tell by some of the schools they’ve gone through in high school, Division-1 guys. And you get them for a short period of time but you like the way they work. They’re willing to work, they’re willing to learn.”
Each year, on day one, he addresses both teams and talks about the precedent that has been set. He tries to hit home with the size of the stage the players will be competing on and the expectations they need to meet, but there is also an even more important message.
“That last name on the back of your jersey, that belongs to your parents,” Edwards said. “That becomes a part of your legacy, along with the university you’re about to play for. Everything you do here, people are watching.”
He’s particularly impressed with players that ask him “why?” He says coaches teach the “what and the how,” and that it’s up to the players to yearn for knowledge by asking why. Edwards said this crop of athletes have done a good job of that.
He also keeps up with players from past years, he estimates 32 guys have gone to the NFL in the seven years the Under Armour game has been in existence but says he doesn’t talk about pro aspirations with any players because professional football will “take care of itself if they’re good enough.”
Florida fans are hoping some of Edwards’ defensive backs on Team Nitro are good enough. He is tutoring Florida cornerback commits J.C. Jackson and Quincy Wilson as well as UF target Jamal Adams who is a safety. Edwards likes what he sees from the future Gators.
“They’ve got great transition skills,” Edwards said. “In other words they can come out of their break, they have the ability to close and that’s what you have to do. Good instincts, most of them have good ball skills.”
The game of football has come along way since 1972, but Gator fans hope a few of Edwards’ Under Armour game defensive backs shine in Nike gear next fall.