T.J. Edwards cracked up each time he talked about his days as a quarterback at Lakes High School in Illinois.
“I’m telling you, I was not a good quarterback,” Edwards said at his locker after a recent Eagles rookie camp practice. "We ran the spread, too. I was throwing it just about every down."
He was good enough to get noticed by Wisconsin while playing quarterback. But not as a quarterback.
He’s now a promising undrafted rookie linebacker with the Eagles. Back then?
In high school Edwards was a self-described “pretty bad” QB who Wisconsin noticed on film for his … blocking?
“Threw a couple blocks as a quarterback,” he said. “So that was it.”
Talk about a strange road to the NFL.
Edwards barely played any defense in high school and never played linebacker. Just “a couple snaps” at safety.
But whenever Lakes’ running backs reversed direction? Guess who was out front of the play laying out opposing safeties and linebackers?
The pretty bad quarterback.
I was a low-level recruit so they weren’t tracking me too much, but I was a good kid, didn’t have any off-the-field issues,” Edwards said. “Glad I threw those blocks. Really, they were just running back cut-backs, and I just happened to run across the field and make a block once in a while and they noticed it on my junior year film.
Edwards wound up at Wisconsin, where he was a four-year inside linebacker starter on Badger teams that went a combined 42-12 and won bowl games the last three seasons.
He had eight sacks, 10 interceptions, 110 tackles for loss and 25 pass deflections and averaged 7.0 tackles per game.
When he went undrafted, there was only one place he wanted to go.
I expected to get drafted, but when that didn’t happen it was on to the next thing, it was fine,” he said. “I knew they wanted me. It was a pretty easy decision. I’m blessed to be here and try to do whatever I can to put myself in the best position. I’m happy with the way everything turned out. I think I’m in the right spot to be as good a player as I can be. I have a great opportunity here, so I’m glad I didn’t (get drafted). I think it definitely puts an extra chip on your shoulder, but at the end of the day everyone here has a little chip on their shoulder no matter what. You use it as internal motivation, but you still have to work as hard as you possibly can.
Edwards has a long way to go, and the practice squad is a realistic goal, but he does have at least shot to stick.
The Eagles added veteran inside linebackers L.J. Fort and 2016 Pro Bowler Zach Brown this offseason, and Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill have roster spots locked up, but there could be a spot for someone like the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Edwards if he has an exceptional training camp.
“I think I fit in well,” Edwards said. “I just think in terms of the culture here and in terms of who’s here now, they have really good players in every spot, so I can come in and learn from guys.”
Edwards played at Wisconsin with Corey Clement, and as a matter of fact their lockers face each other in the NovaCare Complex locker room. They’re very close, and Clement was one of the first people Edwards talked to after he signed here.
Like Clement, Edwards went undrafted. And we all know how it went for Clement. He became a Super Bowl hero as an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin.
His message to Edwards was to focus on the little things, view football as a job now and always give tremendous effort.
Just a wild guess that effort won’t be a problem for a guy who got himself noticed by college coaches for his lead blocking as a quarterback.
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