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Edwards inspired by older brother's comeback

The drop helped lead to Edwards being benched, a humbling experience

ATHENS, Ga. — Terrence Edwards took sole possession of the  Georgia record for most career touchdown receptions in his last game, but an off-week trip to Miami put that record into perspective.

Edwards had been right beside Robert Edwards through most of his older brother's comeback from a devastating knee injury after his 1998 rookie season.

Against all odds and against the predictions from his doctors, Robert Edwards — also a former Georgia standout — completed his comeback  by making the Miami Dolphins' roster. Then, with Terrence in the stands, the comeback was capped Sunday by Robert scoring two touchdowns against Detroit.

The drama of the first touchdown was so compelling that it was named ESPN's play of the week. For Terrence, who for two years lived with Robert in Athens during the early stages of the long comeback that kept Robert out of football for three years, it was more like the play of a lifetime.

"My heart dropped,'' said Terrence, who confided he was praying "Just keep him injury free. ... It's totally inspiring.''

Added Terrence: "He could have just taken the insurance money and just be done with it. His life goal was to play in the NFL. One year just wasn't enough for him. He's still living his dream out.''

One week earlier, in the opening game of his senior season for Georgia, Terrence set the career record for touchdown catches with his 20th, breaking a tie with Brice Hunter.

"I'd trade all 20 of mine just to let (Robert) get one, and he got two,'' said Terrence Edwards Tuesday. "Since he got two, I guess I can take mine back.''

This week brings the reminder of another event that has helped Terrence hold a  mature perspective on his role in the game of football. With Saturday's 3:30 p.m. visit to South Carolina, he has a chance to atone for a career low point from last season.

It was against South Carolina last year that a dropped pass by Edwards in the end zone was the most damaging of a series of missed opportunities by the Georgia offense in a 14-9 loss to the Gamecocks.

In six possessions inside the South Carolina 30-yard line last year in Athens, Georgia was forced to settle for three field goals, an interception, one missed field goal and one blocked field goal.

With that many failures, Terrence Edwards was by no means the only player at fault, but his miscue was the one most remembered.

The drop helped lead to Edwards being benched, a humbling experience for a player who even last year was on the verge of rewriting the Georgia receiving records.

In the end, the football lesson was the same as the life lesson from watching his older brother's severe injury and long comeback. Said Edwards: "You just can't take anything for granted.''

Edwards came back strong later in the 2001 season to reclaim his starting job, and he rededicated himself to the game with a strong offseason and preseason practice.

"Last year it came on me that you have to work every day like it's your last,'' he said. "It's something I have bought into with these coaches.''

Said Coach Mark Richt Tuesday: "I think Terrence is a lot better receiver today than a year ago. He's a lot more apt to try to block somebody, he's going to give great effort than he was given. His concentration level in practice has been like night and day.''

Edwards caught three passes for 35 yards with a touchdown in Georgia's season-opening 31-28 win over Clemson on Aug. 31, but for the senior and the No. 9 Bulldogs, Saturday's game is the true early season benchmark.

If Georgia can end its two-year losing streak to South Carolina (1-1), then it can hope to have a better chance to be a factor in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division in November. But with a third-straight loss in the series, Georgia again would be playing from behind.

"I just want to win the game,'' Edwards said. "It's the first  SEC game, and we need to win no matter how I play.''

But Edwards also has a personal agenda.

"I know that in the back of my heart I've got a little revenge for this game because of the way I played last year,'' he said.

"Dropping a touchdown pass and not helping your team win is the worst thing I have gone through.''

But Edwards knows that a dropped pass, even in the end zone, is not the worst thing that can happen to a player. When his brother at first was worried about saving his foot, and then had to regain movement in the foot, it was difficult for Terrence to complain too loudly about a dropped pass.

"I knew I had bad times last year in a couple of games, but it's nothing to compare with what he went through,'' he said. "I just look at it that way, that I'm still able to play.''

Added Terrence: "And now he's able to play.''

Charles Odum is the beat writer for Dawg Post in Athens. He has over 20 years of experience covering Georgia football. He can be reached here: CEOdum@aol.com

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