After nearly three years of uninterrupted growth, the stylish braids worn by Braylon Edwards were shorn in the off-season. ?I?m trying to get out the last little bits of immaturity,? says the Wolverines? senior wideout, who now sports a close-cut look. ?It tells people I?m serious about this year.?
The new look is big news to the Michigan fans who flooded chat rooms with accusations that Edwards was trying to draw attention to himself when he showed up at media day last year with a full-blown Afro. That was nothing compared with the heat Edwards felt from coach Lloyd Carr, who pulled his star receiver from the starting lineup of the ?03 opener against Central Michigan for being late to team meetings. Edwards, who?d earned the right to wear Michigan?s famed number 1 jersey after a breakout sophomore season, admits he was often more focused on his image than on football, which contributed to a rough start last year.
The 6'3" 210-pounder got back on track in time to wind up with 85 receptions for 1,138 yards and 14 touchdowns, closing the season with four straight 100yard games. In the regular-season finale against Ohio State, Edwards had his best game of the year: seven catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns in a 35?21 win that clinched the Big Ten title. ?I can?t believe there was a better wide receiver in the country the last half of the season,? says Carr.
Edwards, who?ll be working with a new quarterback as second-year man Matt Gutierrez replaces graduated starter John Navarre, thought about turning pro but returned for his senior season because, he says, ?I felt I would be leaving an incomplete career.? The son of former Michigan running back Stan Edwards, Braylon is an encyclopedia of Wolverines history and wants to finish as the school?s alltime leading receiver. (He needs 866 yards to break Anthony Carter?s record of 3,076.) Edwards could also become the first player in Big Ten history to put together three straight seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards.
?His decision to come back,? says Carr, ?speaks volumes about his desire to leave a great legacy.? To say nothing of his decision to visit the barber. --S.M.