May 27, 2016
ANN ARBOR – By the time he left Ann Arbor, Braylon Edwards smashed some of the most storied records in Michigan history.
The son of former Michigan star Stan Edwards also had some of his biggest performances against the Wolverines’ arch rival Ohio State as he racked up 28 catches for 409 yards and three touchdowns against the Buckeyes. But, as significant as The Game is to alumni on both sides of the rivalry, there was one season when Edwards couldn’t bear to watch his alma mater line up against Ohio State.
“I just knew what the outcome was going to be, I just didn’t watch the game at all,” said Edwards, who holds Michigan career records for receptions (252), yards (3,541) and touchdowns (39) by a receiver. “We got blew out anyway.”
However, Michigan is now coming off a 10-win season that included a 41-7 annihilation of Florida in the Citrus Bowl and second-year coach Jim Harbaugh has reenergized the program.
“Coach loves football and whenever you have a guy that wants to win he has to love football,” Edwards said Monday night while making an appearance at Michigan’s Youth Impact Program draft at Cass Tech High School in Detroit. “He loves football. He’s dedicating all his time and energy and effort to winning. That’s first and foremost and he does that. Two, he knows and understands the culture that is U of M. He understands the colors, he understands the winged helmet, he understands the Big Ten, he understands the toughness and the tenacity that comes with the Big Ten from playing under Bo (Schembechler), so he understands the culture – that’s the other element that he brings to it.”
Edwards’ view of Harbaugh isn’t from afar or just as a former Michigan player now around the program. He played for Harbaugh in 2011 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers and knows his idiosyncrasies.
“I think he’s a good leader of young men,” Edwards said. “I think these kids look up to him. I think he’s fun, I think he’s tough and I think he kind of balances it all so he’s not just super tough or he’s not just super fun. You can’t have a super-fun coach that doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. So, he’s fun, he’s tough, he’s serious, he’s dedicated, he’s focused and when you put that together, you have the season like we had last year when nobody expected us to win, what, more than six games?”
Edwards also played for the Rex Ryan – who is also no stranger to making headlines – while with the N.Y. Jets and compared the two while also saying Ryan would be a good college coach. He also acknowledged that Harbaugh’s relentless drive could be more suitable at the college level.
“I think it can because in college you have young men that are 18, 19 and 20 and they’re giving everything they have to football – that’s all they want to do is be great at football, listen to their coach and get better so you can have fun,” Edwards said. “A lot of times in the NFL you have guys that are 32, 33, 30, 28. They’re older, they’ve been there, they’ve heard all the rah-rah speeches and all the yelling and they’re like, look, ‘I’m a grown man, I’ve got kids at home, I know what my job is, I’m going to come here and do it to the best of my ability and then I need to get home, my wife has this or my baby has soccer practice.’ So it’s just you’re dealing with men, and men you can’t rah-rah it all the time. Every once in a while you’ll get a guy like that that people connect.”
Given that Harbaugh was successful with the 49ers before coming to Michigan, the rumors of him returning to the NFL will likely pop up every year. But, in just one season he was able to double the Wolverines’ win total and drastically increase the buzz around the program.
“It feels great,” Edwards said. “Michigan has always been Michigan so we’ve always been good, we’ve always had All-Americans, first-round draft picks and things of that nature so to see Michigan struggle like that … it’s hard. This isn’t Michigan football and I’m not used to this. We’re not going to bowl games, we’re almost losing to Indiana. It’s one of those situations where it hurt, so to see us come back to this in only one year under Jim – obviously it’s still some of (Brady Hoke’s) players, but Jim was able to lead them in the right direction and get them to turn their play around. It’s great to see. I’m excited.”