Behind The Scenes

ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards motivates from coast to coast, coaches in NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

ESPN's Herm Edwards was awarded this year's Walter Camp (Photo credit: Walter Camp Football Foundation)
ESPN’s Herm Edwards received the 2012 Walter Camp Foundation Man of the Year Award. (Credit: Walter Camp Football Foundation)

NFL analyst Herm Edwards might have retired from coaching, but he’s not slowing down a bit, especially when it comes to seeking opportunities to motivate and inspire others.

The former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs head coach — who also played 10 NFL seasons — regularly speaks to groups of students, corporate executives and others.

He received the 2012 Walter Camp Foundation Man of the Year Award last weekend for his longtime contributions to the game of football. He also coached one of the teams at the Under Armour All-America High School Football game earlier this month.

Edwards will coach yet another squad at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl college all-star game this weekend (Sat., Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. on ESPN2).

Front Row caught up with Edwards this week in between a speaking engagement at the University of South Florida and a cross-country flight to California for the NFLPA event to find out what motivates him and how he continues to inspire others.

What is your message when you speak to different groups?
The foundation is leadership and team building. It’s a team event and it’s a collaboration with a bunch of people. How do you get those people on the same page? It’s obviously not the differences but how they co-exist, whether it’s football, the business world or anything else.

Are there people who motivated you growing up?
President Kennedy was big for me. Listening to him speak and how he addressed certain situations. I can still remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and how he took that upon himself; Martin Luther King Jr., how he went about sharing his views and his ideas. There have been a host of people and for some reason when you’re little and you watch how they speak you go, ‘Wow,’ it’s not just about him, it’s a plan for the masses.

How do you relate football to peoples’ everyday lives?
In football, there is this thing called a huddle. In the huddle, there are all different religions, race, political views, economical statuses, how you grew up, where you grew up, and it doesn’t matter. Once you are in the huddle, it’s 11 guys who are trying to have some success in one play and all those matters are cast aside. You don’t have to like the person; you have to respect that person. He’s after the same thing you are. He’s trying to have some success and he needs you to help him to have success. Our world and our country is built that way. You can’t do it by yourself. Sometimes you think you can, but you can’t.

What’s your message to young players at the Under Armour High School All-Star game and at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl this weekend?
The first is obviously about football and to let these guys know that they have a responsibility. It’s how you go about not only playing the game on the field, but how you represent yourself off the field. I always tell players that the jersey they wear, the back of it represents your last name given by your parents and so that alone is a representation of you and your family. And the emblem on the helmet represents the university, the college, the high school or the professional team that you play for and that’s important, too. So it’s not just about you, and at times you think it is, but your legacy is defined by your jersey.

What are you looking forward to most about the NFLPA opportunity?
Some of these guys obviously are not first-round picks. They are going to be guys who are maybe middle-round picks, and some of them will be free agents. I tell players all the time, don’t get caught up if you get drafted or you are a free agent. You guys will get an opportunity, but will you be prepared when the opportunity arrives? You don’t know when opportunity will knock. It doesn’t give you a warning.

What does receiving the Walter Camp Man of the Year Award mean to you?
Walter Camp is one of the founders of football. I look at all the guys who won that award before me, it’s a host of great players and a lot of guys that I played against and some guys that I coached against. To be on that list and to know what Walter Camp means, not only in football terms, but what they do [for] charity in their community, they are making a difference and that’s what Walter Camp was about. He used football as his platform but he also made a difference in his community through sports.

Herm Edwards coaching the Under Armour High School All-Star game. (Credit?)
Herm Edwards coaching the Under Armour High School All-Star game. (ESPN)

Note: Front Row’s Hannah Worster contributed to this post

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