Saturday, April 21, 2018
Sports

Fun, with no other expectations

DADE CITY — J.D. Edwards is a hard-nosed, multidimensional and talented football player.

Last year, he was an all-conference linebacker, and he will play a large role on the Pasco football team in the fall.

What the senior is not, however, is a Division I prospect. Maybe not even Division II.

And he and his dad, John Edwards, are perfectly fine with that.

"His attitude is he just kind of hopes some small school will look at him and like him, and maybe he can play there," said Edwards, the longtime radio voice of the Pirate football team.

Truthfully, J.D. could play at some college level. Edwards could argue for this. Dive into the recruiting game, meet with coach Tom McHugh to discuss more playing time, bug one of his newspaper buddies to write a story on his son, maybe even argue that surely there's a Division I-AA school that might be a fit.

A lot of parents would. And do.

J.D. didn't play youth football, though he tried a little baseball and basketball, and hung around his father when he was coaching basketball at Saint Leo and USF.

He wasn't sent off to camps, didn't train on the side with specialized coaches.

"He didn't want to," Edwards said. "He never asked. He'd tell me he'd rather go to Gator games on Saturday with me. I said, 'Okay, whatever you wanna do.' "

J.D. is a good high school football player, dad says proudly.

But could he have been great with, you know, a little nudge from Pops?

"I don't know," Edwards said. "I just wanted him to play and have fun. That's all I wanted. You don't have to go camps to be great. But you do have to enjoy playing the game."

A former high school star point guard on Tampa Bayshore Christian's 1984 final four team, Edwards played ball at Trinity Christian College in Chicago after Houston and Georgia had expressed interest.

After graduating, he attended an NBA free agent tryout. Red Auerbach and Pat Riley were in attendance.

He is, then, perfectly suited to live his life vicariously through his sons, J.D. and Noah.

"I'm surprised, because I've heard the stories and people are always telling me how good he was," J.D. said. "But he never put any of that pressure on me."

A graduation enhancement teacher of at-risk kids at Woodland Elementary, Edwards said he hears it all the time from kids, especially on Monday, as they complain that their dads made them do this or that all weekend.

J.D. hears the same thing. He says more than a dozen kids he has played with "have parents that get on them. I don't know if it makes them not enjoy the sport, but they are annoyed by their parents. I look at them, and I'm pretty glad my dad doesn't do that."

After high school games on Friday nights, Edwards has heard parents complain to coaches for taking their kids out in 49-0 games. "We're trying to get a scholarship here," they say, instead of enjoying the victory over a district rival.

Maybe he's just old-school. He still believes in playing for high school glory, and that doing so is one of the greatest times of a kid's life. There are lessons to learn, friends to make, teams to be a part of.

Why spoil it, he asks, by putting so much pressure on kids?

"You have to keep everything in perspective," he said. "I'd like to think I've helped J.D. do that. You work hard, and if it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, you did the right thing anyway because you worked hard."

Edwards didn't spend a dime on camps or training for his son. But this past year, he made an exception and sent J.D. to a Gator camp in Gainesville.

"It had nothing to do with football," he said, laughing. "J.D. just wanted to get on the field and get his picture taken with (coach) Will Muschamp."

John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

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