Ravens' Edwards has small-town roots

OWINGS MILLS – The heavy-duty anchor from the West has arrived. <P> As the Baltimore Ravens concluded their rookie minicamp Saturday afternoon, defensive lineman Dwan Edwards appears to qualify as advertised: a blue-collar family man who's stout enough to excel against the run.

"He's what we expected him to be," Ravens defensive line coach Rex Ryan said of the Ravens' top draft pick who was chosen in the second round 51st overall out of Oregon State. "Ozzie Newsome brings the goods in here. You don't have to motivate the guy to run to the football. He's a guy that plays with a great deal of passion."

Edwards grew up in Columbus, Montana, a community with a population of 2,000 and only a few stoplights.

It's a town known for mining and farming, not producing NFL football players.

In this setting, Edwards became an all-state fullback, linebacker and basketball player.

"It's real rural there," Edwards said of Columbus. "Everyone knows each other. I spend a lot of time in Billings now. I know that's not a real big metropolis, either, but all of my family is there. Moving to the big city will be an adjustment for me."

In high school, Edwards was class president for three years and a member of the National Honor Society. He graduated with a 3.7 grade point average.

At age 15, Edwards quit his job bagging groceries.

"I worked for like a month before I quit and I remember my mom saying, ‘You don't want to do that all your life, so you had better work hard,'" said Edwards, who graduated from college in December with a degree in business administration. "I did well at school and at everything else I did."

Now, Edwards is a father of two whose girlfriend, Kelsey Walter, gave birth to their son, Dwan, on Monday. They also have a 4-year-old daughter named Kaitlin.

Three days after his son was born, Edwards had to leave his family to fly to the East Coast for the first time for this rookie orientation.

"My girlfriend understands," Edwards said. "She's aware of how big this is going to be for our family, so she doesn't have too much of a problem with me being away. I can't wait to get back. It's been a long week for me."

At 6-foot-3 and 315 pounds, Edwards outweighs all of the Ravens' starting defensive linemen. He's expected to initially rotate along the defensive front and eventually challenge Marques Douglas for a starting job at right defensive end.

When in doubt this weekend, Edwards ran full-speed as he became acclimated to his new surroundings while trying to absorb a scaled-down playbook.

"It's a lot of stuff being thrown at you, but I think I'm doing a pretty good job of learning new techniques and how they want me to do things," Edwards said. "Bottom line: It's still football. It's a higher level, of course. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Edwards was lauded by analysts for his ability to stop the run, recording 159 tackles in 36 starts. He hasn't been nearly as accomplished a pass rusher with just 12 ½ career sacks.

The Edwards pick by Baltimore, which lacked a first-round draft pick after a trade last year to acquire starting quarterback Kyle Boller, left many critics unimpressed.

Most cited a lack of explosive pass-rush potential. Edwards received high marks for fighting through blocks, being active in pursuit and refusing to be budged at the line of scrimmage.

"Everybody's got their own opinion, but the people who were really around me had the best things to say," Edwards said. "My coaches knew what I was all about. I'm all about listening to the people whose opinion I respect."

The Ravens organization is enthusiastic about its highest-drafted defensive lineman since picking starting left end Tony Weaver in the second round from Notre Dame two years ago. Veteran scout Ron Marciniak said he found few flaws in Edwards' game.

Besides the transition to pro football, Edwards recognizes that his life is about to undergo a dramatic change when he and his family leave Montana and move to Baltimore.

"This will be an adjustment, but anywhere I ended up was going to be a whole lot better than where I'm from with a lot more to do," Edwards said. "I'm going to enjoy being in the big city."

NOTES: Ravens coach Brian Billick on Roderick Green, a fifth-round draft pick from Central Missouri State, making the transition from a Division II defensive end to NFL outside linebacker: ""We have to be very tolerant and recognize that whatever we tell him is about the 10th different way he's heard it now, over the last three and four and five years," Billick said. "That's hard for an athlete. When someone tells him to, ‘do it this way, step that way, carry your pads this way,' the next guy says, ‘do this, do that.' You've got to be very cognizant of that." … Ryan said he was impressed with undrafted defensive tackle Matt Zielinski. … The largest rookie is undrafted former Auburn offensive lineman Monreko Crittenden, all 6-4, 358 pounds of him. The smallest is seventh-round return specialist Derek Abney at 5-9, 180-pounds. … The Ravens will hold a passing camp on May 17.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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