"It's quiet, green, real nice ... not like LaSalle," Edwards
said during an interview this week before Thursday's game against
the Alouettes at Molson Stadium. "I used to be left in the
park by myself as a kid, without worries. This is suburbia. The
water's right there. There's not much crime. We used to leave our
was a sports maniac as a child, active and busy. Soccer, basketball,
tennis, baseball, softball, swimming. It mattered little. And he
quickly understood he was good; better than his peers. So good,
he played against older kids. So good, his softball coach told him
to slow down his pitches to better provide the opposition with an
opportunity to hit. The philosophy frustrated Edwards.
sports was his ticket out of Lachine, potentially to a better and
more prosperous life.
never practised. I just played. I was a natural," he said,
without a shade of cockiness in his voice. "Whatever sport,
I was the top at it. I was pretty good at what I did."
On his way
to a 6-foot-3, 195-pound body, Edwards excelled and prospered at
basketball, but figured the likelihood of a Canadian making it in
the National Basketball Association was remote. So he turned his
attention to football, a sport that became part of his fibre. He
played two ways at Vanier College for three years - cornerback and
wide receiver. He was the Cheetahs' lock-down corner, always lined-up
against the opposition's best receiver. The quarterback rarely threw
to his side.
played four years at the University of Manitoba, leading Canada
West in interceptions his final two seasons. He was named a first-team
all-Canadian in 2000 and was selected in the fourth round (29th
overall) by the Riders two years later. He cracked the roster as
a rookie, at 22, somewhat unique for a lower draft pick.
have been the end of the story. Except, in many ways, Edwards lives
a life unfulfilled. He has a drawer at home full of envelopes and
letters from Syracuse, Central Michigan and other leading U.S. colleges,
a constant reminder of what could have been. A coach at UCLA once
told him he could guarantee Edwards would be drafted by a National
Football League team following three years with the Bruins.
was never a particularly diligent student. His teachers complained
of him not applying himself. But he was athletically gifted, had
the body frame and could play bump-and-run coverage. It wasn't long
before American colleges started taking notice, sending him entrance
forms, information packages and invitations to tour the campus and
would have earned a scholarship from the school of his choice, except
that he came up short on the entrance exams - the aptitude tests
required - scoring 890 points, 110 short of the minimum requirement.
"I made it tough
for myself, and I'll never forget that," he said, shrugging.
"I'm keeping those letters for my kids, so they know the importance
of education. I could have played football for free ... been on
TV ... but it didn't work out. If you don't have the grades, it
"You need an opportunity,
and the opportunities are narrow up north, where you're playing
against average to decent receivers (in university). Had I gone
to school in the States, I have no doubt I'd be in the NFL, playing
Monday Night Football and starting. I don't want to sound cocky.
There's no excuse. It's on me."
Edwards likely would
have been a first-round draft choice in the Canadian Football League,
but there were rumblings of him testing the NFL market, which made
Canadian teams nervous. Scouts from the New York Giants and Pittsburgh
Steelers came to Montreal to test Edwards. The Detroit Lions flew
him to their suburban practice facility. But none of the three organizations
"The tryout at Detroit
was crazy," he said. "You see all those guys. They walk
you through the facilities. You could have eaten off the floor.
At (Manitoba), I had to pay to go to the gym, and I was a student-athlete.
I guess it wasn't meant to be."
It has been a frustrating
pro career for Edwards. There were knee injuries his first two seasons,
and he now finds himself in a battle with Scott Gordon for playing
time in the Riders' secondary. Nonetheless, Edwards, a potential
free agent in February, said he'd like to re-sign with Saskatchewan,
perhaps working with inner-city kids someday.
"Ask me to do anything
with kids, I'll do it," he said. "You can't say no to
a kid. If you do, it might change his life."