Many heads were turned after the first game of the year versus Central Michigan when Coach Carr indicated that he and Braylon weren’t “on the same page.” That incongruence manifested itself on the field in the form of a starting lineup devoid of #1 at flanker. According to Braylon, that punishment was certainly warranted. “I showed up late to a meeting during two-a-days,” Edwards said. “I had just gotten the number 1 jersey and I was supposed to be a team leader. I just can’t be one of the guys coming in late. I have to set an example.” That, however, wasn’t the end of the coach’s message delivering. Braylon was held out the majority of the first half against the Indiana Hoosiers as well. While Carr never fully went into the reasoning behind the decision, it appears that whatever point he was trying to get across has certainly reached its destination. Edwards went out and turned in outstanding performances the past few weeks. The unfortunate byproduct of the whole ordeal is the rampant speculation that was born of it. Many pundits suggested that Braylon had behavioral issues or that he didn’t work hard in practice. Coach Carr, however, always made it a point to mention that effort was never a problem and he categorically disagreed with the notion that Braylon isn’t/wasn’t a team player. "I don’t agree with that,” Carr said in response to being informed of sentiments that Braylon placed individual goals ahead of that of the team. “I think that Braylon is a highly motivated guy. I think that going into a season like this, wearing the #1 and all that went with it may have distracted him a bit. But I never had any doubt that Braylon Edwards was going to have a great year.”
Braylon made the switch from #80 to #1 this spring.
While it is ok to critically analyze Braylon’s play, it is largely unfair to cast aspersions on his character. To his credit, he has taken all of that talk in stride. “I’ve heard attacks on my integrity and talk about how I’ve been disrupting the program, but I just ignore them. Those are just people’s opinions.” Still, the vitriol became more prevalent after the sideline disagreement between he and John Navarre in Iowa City. However, Braylon was very adamant in his insistence that the exchange was not one that caused any friction between he and his quarterback. He further indicated that they don’t they blame each other for what went on on the field. “It was definitely nothing personal regarding what I said to John nor in what he said to me. It was just two people in the heat of battle. It was a frustrating play and sidelines are going to get emotional in games like that.”
Instead of dwelling on what has gone wrong, Braylon has turned his attention toward what it will take for him to continue to get better and help the team accomplish the goals that remain on the table. One of the things that he has to deal with is his injured finger. He called on a former Wolverine star for some advice. “I talked to Tai Streets because I heard that he played with two broken fingers. He just told me to ignore the pain and block it out. He said that I had to focus on the ball ten times harder, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
Looking ahead, the Big Ten championship remains an attainable goal for 2003 Wolverines. That said, Braylon still openly longs for a shot at the national title and is willing to remain a college student to get that shot. “There’s no thought of the NFL,” Braylon said. “All I’m doing is thinking about Michigan football. I haven’t gotten that ring yet. I’m going to try to help the team get a Big Ten ring this year and come back and try to help us get the national title ring next year. I'm a Michigan Man. I love the atmosphere here, I love being a college student, and I love the school."
I think the biggest misnomer about this young man is that he is selfish. I’ve witnessed countless scenarios that indicate that nothing could be further from the truth!
I spoke with Stan Edwards recently and he had quite a bit to say about the criticism his son has been hearing lately. His comments were directed at those being critical of his play as they were at those being critical of his character. Rather than editorialize his comments I decided to just present them in Q&A format so that the interpretation is left to you, the reader.
What has been your reaction to some of the things you heard on the radio and TV, or read in various publications about Braylon lately?
For anyone to suggest that he’s lazy or doesn’t work hard amounts to one of two things. One thing is they obviously don’t know him, or they have some preconceived notions about him. The reasons could range from the color of his skin, to his age, to switching to #1. It could be as heady as his hair length. I would say that no one who knows him or that works in that building and watches him everyday would suggest that he doesn’t work hard. You don’t get to be an All Big Ten receiver as a sophomore after being a 2 star athlete coming out of high school because people like you or defenses are going to let you catch the ball. He works very very hard. Like we have discussed before, he was 7th in America (in track) when he was seven years old and 3rd in America when he was 12 years old. People don’t really understand the elite competition at that age bracket. It is something fierce and serious and it takes a lot of work. So, it’s interesting to me that some choose not really to care to find out about him. There are certain radio DJ’s/shock jocks, a few reporters, and even some people who commentate games that make comments in reference to his character and integrity and don’t even think twice about it. These people do it and DON’T THINK TWICE ABOUT IT! Forget the fact that he is someone’s child and forget the fact that he is an amateur student athlete, they have no problem with damaging his character for their own personal gratification.
Braylon has tremendous work ethic. One time I stopped through Ann Arbor to see him on a Monday (which is his off day). We met at Schembechler and talked for a minute before I started to head inside to talk to some old friends. He started to head in too and I asked him was he going in to get treatment. He said, no…that he was going to run pass routes. I said ‘oh, is John coming up here?’ He said, ‘no, I’m going out to run some routes by myself because I need to work on it.’ I was proud and impressed that he was doing that on his off day. There was another time when I called him on his cell phone at about 9:00 at night and he was whispering as I speaking to him. I apologized because I was thinking that he had a night class, but he told me that wasn’t the case. He was using some more off time after practice to watch film. With that type of work ethic he is going to get better in every phase of his game.
Coach Carr indicated that there was never a problem with Braylon’s work ethic. He indicated that his only real issue with Braylon had to do with being on time. Aside from that, he said that he felt that Braylon might have been distracted by everything surrounding #1, but disagreed with the notion that he put himself over the team.
I agree with Coach Carr, but I guess you have to ask those outside the program that suggest that Braylon had greater individual goals because he asked for a certain number why they think that. People request numbers all of the time. That’s not the only number that has been requested. Some kids come in and request the number they had in high school for whatever reason. It has all been mind boggling to me. I took the liberty of calling an individual that is a radio talk show host and asking him had he ever spoken to Braylon. He said no, and that Braylon didn’t talk to him. I came to find out that Braylon had done an interview and that this guy had no interest in trying to get the truth from him. For a second there I thought that he wanted to say some things about Braylon’s character just to get ratings. However, I found that it was a little bit deeper than that when this person got loud and belligerent towards me about how many balls Braylon had dropped! I said to myself that ‘this guy is taking it personally!’ That’s regarding someone he doesn’t even know! This guy, as well as some other people, have a serious serious problem.
Anybody who draws those types of conclusions about someone’s character without having all of the information is either a damn fool or a vindictive devil. Why would you do that to people you don’t know?
What did you do to help him deal with the situation?
Quite honestly, I didn’t say too much because he and I don’t talk about what people are saying and what people’s perception of him is because hopefully he is not spending too much time and energy on that. In today’s electronic age with information traveling so fast, sometimes it is difficult to avoid. But, I don’t talk to him about that stuff because I don’t want him to focus on that. I want him to focus on being a student-athlete and being the best he can be at both.
Did the #1 bring more scrutiny than you expected?
I thought that he would play better than he is playing right now, even though he is playing much better than he did last year. Of course I have to take into account him having a dislocated finger. Some people have never had anything dislocated so they don’t have a clue how painful that really is. That’s difficult for someone who makes their living with their hands catching the football, not to mention the fact that he’s required to block. Playing Z, the motion receiver, requires him to go in and block linebackers and sometimes, defensive ends. And he has not backed down from that. So, for someone not playing to their best of their ability, even if injury is a large part of the reason why, the scrutiny he has received doesn’t shock me.
He got the #1 because he grew up admiring it. He admired a guy that I played
with. The greatest college receiver to ever play the game (Anthony Carter).
Braylon asked me what I thought about him changing his number because so many
people told him that he should go out and make #80 a popular number. I said
to him, ‘Braylon don’t ever…ever let anyone steal YOUR dreams.
If that’s what you want to do and you’ve earned the right to do
it, then it’s your choice. Don’t let anyone ever tell you different.
You have to live with yourself and you want to be able to close your eyes at
night and be comfortable with your decision and not with what someone else thinks
you should be doing.