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The Real Thing
KARL TARO GREENFELD
October 25, 2004
Braylon Edwards is the best wideout in the nation and the unquestioned leader of resurgent Michigan. But it took four years for his head to catch up to his talent
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October 25, 2004

The Real Thing

Braylon Edwards is the best wideout in the nation and the unquestioned leader of resurgent Michigan. But it took four years for his head to catch up to his talent

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Braylon Edwards sits in the backseat of a friend's taupe Chevy Avalanche, kneading his left shoulder and rocking back and forth as a voice crackling on his cellphone taunts, "You're gonna be hurting this Saturday. Shut down in the Big House. Three picks. No catches. It's gonna be all pain, no Braylon." � A Minnesota fan somehow got Edwards's number and bombarded his voice mail. Edwards hasn't checked his messages until now, after the game, in which Michigan came from behind with less than two minutes left and put away the unbeaten Golden Gophers 27-24 on Oct. 9.

And Edwards? He did have his worst day of the season so far: 10 catches, 98 yards, one touchdown. Of course, his worst performance is what 99% of the wide receivers in college football would call a career day.

At this tailgate party--a regular Edwards extended family affair, complete with oil-drum barbecue grill and a dozen kids playing touch football in the street--Braylon, 21, listens to the Minnesotan's rants and shakes his head, holding up the phone so that relatives can hear a Wolverine-hater make a damn fool of himself.

But Braylon is hurting. He's rolling his neck, rubbing that shoulder and wincing. Not in pain, he insists, but in annoyance at his mom, Malesa, who leans into the car with one elbow on the open door and the other on the roof, her number 1 jersey creating a barrier that keeps the world away from her boy. "Baby," she asks, "did they hurt you?"

"No, Mom," Braylon says, clucking his tongue. "It's just a cold."

"Oh, my God," she says. "You have the flu. Is it the flu? I know you have the flu."

"It's not the flu," he says. "It's a cold."

"Flu!" she says.

"Cold! I'm sick, O.K.?" Braylon erases the phone message and moves to the next one.

"Braylon," it says, "you're going to suffer. You're going to be shut down. You have no game."

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