Edwards Has High Expectations

Donnie Edwards is encouraged not only by his fellow linebackers, but also the progress of the team as a whole. While he has his own personal goals, ones that show his leadership value, he concedes the playoffs and Super Bowl are of primary importance to his career with the San Diego Chargers.

"(Zeke Moreno and Ben Leber) are great," Edwards said. "They are really not that young now.

"(Zeke) is doing pretty well. Zeke has a nose for the football. He has always been that way. Even back in the days at Castle Park, he has always had a nose for the football."

Castle Park is a High School in Chula Vista that Zeke attended. Donnie has always stayed close to his roots. Moreno led the 1996 Castle Park Trojans to a 13-0 season and a CIF championship before heading to USC where he followed in the footsteps of Junior Seau.

"He came on strong last year when Junior (Seau) went down and played exceptionally well against Denver last year and had like 10 or 12 tackles and came in against Seattle and had a nice interception, the run (on his return) was kind of suspect, but he had a nice little pick. Even in preseason he played pretty well. He's coming along. He played linebacker at USC, so it is a business that he knows.

"And then Ben Leber came in last year as a rookie and you know how hard it is to come in from college and be on the starting field the first game of the season is pretty tough. He did an amazing job and he is going to be that much better this year because he has that experience from last year. I am really looking for some big things from these guys."

The additions within the offense of Lorenzo Neal and David Boston and the added experience of the offense as a whole should help the Chargers defense as they practice against them.

Edwards quickly defends the offense of a year ago, "Curtis Conway was a hell of a playmaker for us last year."

No one can deny that. When healthy, Conway was superb in this offense. He was let go during the offseason by the Bolts. Management felt a true threat would help alleviate the eight men in the box syndrome and they felt Boston was that guy. Listed at 6'2 and 245 pounds with 4.3 speed, he is a deep threat that will take the heat off Tomlinson. There is an aura that David Boston brings to the table.

"Definitely, he is one of the premiere receivers in this league.

"We are definitely stronger on offense. Those guys have been together two years now and they played pretty well last year. We expect big things from them this year. We don't like to be on the field."

Again practicing against this improved unit can only aid the progress of the defense.

"We have some talented guys. Just seeing LaDainian Tomlinson every day – he is one of the best backs in the league right now. He makes everyone look foolish. He is that great of a player. He makes everyone look foolish. We have some great players. We have one of the best fullbacks and wide receivers – you can go down the line. It is good to work against those guys."

Many have said that leadership must now come from other places with the departure of Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison. Marcellus Wiley could be one of those leaders along the defensive line, and Kwamie Lassiter gets the nod in the secondary. As for Donnie Edwards

"I have always been a leader. I was born a leader. I am not going to go out and wear a ‘follow me leader' t-shirt. I lead by example. I lead by my work ethic and what I do on the field and how I live my life off the field.

"A leadership ruled is assumed. I think leaders reveal themselves. You don't point someone out and say, ‘You're the leader'. They reveal themselves amongst a group of people."

Sounds like he has a fine grasp of what a leader is already. Considering his stellar past, Zeke Moreno and Ben Leber should be so lucky.

Tomlinson had said he will do what it takes to get the team to the playoffs. Whatever the cost he will pay it. For the fifth consecutive season, Edwards has led his team in tackles and last year marked the sixth season in a row that he has had over 100 tackles. Despite gaudy numbers he never made the Pro Bowl until last season. Edwards could be the most underrated linebacker in the game. The question is: will he forego the Pro Bowl for a shot at the playoffs.

"Well obviously I have personal goals, but I am pretty selfish, I want to go to the Pro Bowl, I want to go to the Super Bowl, I want to do all that stuff. I expect everything to go well.

"The more you work – things are going to pay off for you."

Edwards is working hard this offseason. He has switched positions to weakside linebacker to allow Zeke Moreno to take the middle. He was often the last player off the practice field in Carson. He knows he has to give his all, everyday.

"You can never get big-headed in this league. I have to work as hard as everybody else. That is my motto."

When Edwards came home to San Diego, he aided his former high school, Chula Vista High School, with $40,000 for the construction of a new strength and fitness facility. An All-Metro League selection as a linebacker and tight end for the Spartans, Edwards was honored in June of 2000 when his #89 football jersey was retired by the school.

"I am a product of the system. All the San Diego products that have come out of here, we got Heisman Trophy winners Ricky Williams and Marcus Allen. We have so many guys from here and just to be able to come back in your professional career and come back home to where you started. Anything I can do to help out and give someone else an opportunity, that is what I want to do. Maybe there will be another (local product) coming up and they will return the favor when they are in the same position I am. It's a cycle and I now have a chance to give back, and that is what I want to do."

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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