More than two decades after winning a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins, Brad Edwards is back in the neighborhood as the new athletic director at George Mason — and is still, after all these years, trying to emulate Joe Gibbs.
“He’s the guy I try to get up every day and model,” Edwards said. “Every single day. We all know he had an insane work ethic, and no one will ever question my work ethic. … You always felt like he wanted you to succeed, but he wasn’t going to let you off the hook without doing it exactly the right way.”
So does that mean, Edwards was asked, that he will be sleeping in his office — as Gibbs so infamously did while winning NFL titles as the Redskins coach?
Edwards pointed at his wife, Marlana, and laughed.
“She would accuse me of it,” said the 48-year-old former safety, who then recounted the recent late nights in his transition from AD at Jacksonville, a job he’s had since 2012, to his new position with the Patriots, which officially begins July 1 when Tom O’Connor retires.
O’Connor helped make George Mason a national name, but this is a time of transition throughout the athletic department. The three most visible leaders during the basketball team’s Final Four run in 2006 — coach Jim Larranaga, President Alan Merten and O’Connor — have moved on, and the Patriots this fall will begin their second season in the Atlantic 10.
Edwards said he will “aggressively build on that foundation” laid by O’Connor, but he said he won’t have specific plans in place until he’s been on the job for a few months. He said his NFL days — including the 1991 Redskins championship season when he was defensive co-captain — have helped him prepare for what lies ahead.
“You’re in an incredibly insane pressure situation,” Edwards said. “I had to call audibles. I ran the huddle. I think being in that leadership position, under those kinds of standards, I think that forges in you a sense of an ability to operate, to juggle a lot of things, which you have to do as an AD.”
GMU doesn’t play the sport that made Edwards famous. His arrival doesn’t mean the university plans to add football anytime soon.
“The financial numbers of football are very tough,” President Angel Cabrera said. “And in a context where student affordability is at stake, where newspapers around the country are holding our feet to the fire and are bringing up questions about tuition and student fees … (and) the fact that student loans right now are the highest they’ve ever been, in that context to add something to the university that would put affordability at risk is something in the current context we just cannot contemplate.”
While football won’t be played, Edwards will use it to playing the fundraising game, having retained Redskins connections in the area. It didn’t take long Monday for the stories from his playing days to start flowing, including the time he tried to ignore longtime defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon.
“He kept calling a seven-man blitz when we were playing the Falcons, and they keep putting Deion Sanders in the slot, which means I’m having to cover Deion Sanders,” Edwards said. “So I keep waving off the call, and he’s cussing at me, like, ‘Make the call!’ And I go to the sidelines and I said, ‘What do I have to explain to you? The NFL’s fastest man. Slow safety. Do you want to ruin my career?’”
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