The Winnipeg Football Club will officially welcome three new members to its Hall of Fame at this week’s annual Legacy Dinner: Terrence Edwards and builders David Asper and Gene Dunn.
This is the third of three profiles on the new inductees.
It rolls off the tongue just fine: ‘Terrence Edwards, Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Famer.’
It’s a monumental achievement to be added to any kind of shrine for a player, for his family, for his friends and for the coaches and teammates who helped along the way. And it’s especially so for Edwards, who spent seven years in Blue Bomber colours and ranks fourth on the all-time receiving yardage list behind franchise icons Milt Stegall, James Murphy and Joe Poplawski.
“I’m honoured. I’m thrilled,” began Edwards, who will be joined in Winnipeg for the occasion by his parents, Robert Jr. and Jeannette, his wife Candice and three children, Terrence II, Troy and Cadence, and his brother Robert.
“It’s something that’s going to be very exciting for me and my family.”
The funny thing about all this, in retrospect?
If not for the insistence of Robert, his brother, Terrence Edwards might very well have walked away from the game in the spring of 2007, before ever pulling on a Bomber uniform and before hauling in 469 passes for 7,200 yards and 46 touchdowns.
“I attribute a lot of my success to him,” said Edwards. “There was a point where I was ready to stop playing because of what happened to me in Atlanta, because of what happened to me in Toronto, and because of what happened to me in Montreal.
“I was tired of all that let down. But Robert wouldn’t allow me to quit. He showed me the way to not being just a great athlete, but to being a good person. He wouldn’t allow me to quit.”
“And now I’m in the club’s hall of fame because of that, because of him.”
Let’s rewind a bit here to fill in some of the details…
A two-sport star from Tennille, Georgia – about 130 miles southeast of Atlanta – Edwards followed Robert to the University of Georgia and played both basketball and football in his freshman year. He switched to football exclusively after his first year saw him named a Freshman All-American and a bad case of turf toe limited his ability to play hoops.
He made a significant imprint during his days with the Bulldogs, finishing his career as the SEC’s career receiving-yardage leader (now third) and second in receptions (now 6th). He cracked the Atlanta Falcons roster as an undrafted rookie in 2003 and appeared in six games, but missed all of 2004 with a groin injury. He was waived-injured after that and looked north to Canada, first with the Toronto Argonauts (spent time on their practice roster) and then signed with the Montreal Alouettes after his brother Robert – who was a star on the team – and kick returner Ezra Landry showed then-GM Jim Popp his highlight tape. He dressed for two games in 2005 and six in 2006 before a bizarre set of circumstances ultimately brought him to Winnipeg and the Bombers.
The Canadian Football League and Arena League had come to an agreement in the winter of 2007 that the indoor loop would not sign players under contract from Canadian teams without some sort of agreement.
“Back then a lot of players were playing in both leagues,” said Edwards. “Before we left that offseason, Jim Popp told me he didn’t mind me playing in the Arena League at the time because I wasn’t one of his main guys. But once this list came out… nobody from the Montreal Alouettes called me to tell me I had been released.
“I was on the internet and just so happened to find out. I can remember the headline ‘Edwards and Haywood Released.’ I was like, ‘Oh, wow… they’ve released by brother’ because I hadn’t been called.
“Then I read the article and found it was me that had been released. I called Jim Popp and asked him what it was all about and was told I was on a list to play in the Arena League. I told him I wasn’t on a list, I was at home in my living room.
“He did some research and found out I shouldn’t have been on that list and said he would call me back and we were going to get a contract to bring me back. That call was never made.”
That’s where his connections with Winnipeg landed him his next gig. He had worked with then-Bombers head coach Doug Berry during their days together in Montreal, and had been working out in the offseason in Atlanta with a bunch of CFL players, including Stegall.
His new Bomber teammates called him ‘Mini-Milt’ or ‘Baby Milt’ because of their association, but it didn’t take long for the club and its fans to recognize the Als had let go of a future star.
“When I came in there I was just another guy looking for an opportunity to continue playing,” said Edwards. “I had a great preseason. I should have ended up leading the league in receiving that season, but Geroy (Simon) caught me near the end.
“But I went from cast-off in Montreal to being a guy who was second in the league in receiving yards.”
Edwards would post five 1,000-yard receiving seasons as a Bomber and his 24 100-yard receiving games ranks second only to Stegall. What his days in Winnipeg did, too, was bring back his joy for the game after being caught up in the cut-throat business aspect following his release in Atlanta, Toronto and Montreal.
“It made me appreciate it all again, definitely,” he said. “The guys we had there with the Bombers helped a lot, too. I tell people all the time that I’ve never been around a group of receivers – remember, receivers are the most selfish divas on a football field because we want the ball and we want our numbers – but that group of guys were the most unselfish guys I’ve ever played with.”
“Milt, Derrick Armstrong, Arjei Franklin, Chris Brazzell and myself it was always about the team. I’ve never been around a group of guys that would actually give passes away. I can remember vividly a game where Arjei hadn’t had a ball thrown his way yet and one of the guys in the group said to him ‘take this’ because we knew the ball was going to go to that spot.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a receiver putting someone else in a spot to catch the ball because we want all the balls we can get. That team brought back the joy for me and we ended up going to the Grey Cup that year (2007).”
Edwards is entering his second season as a coach at Pace Academy in Atlanta and runs the Terrence Edwards Wide Receiver Academy.
“I love it,” he said. “I love being able to put game plans together and then watching young kids go out there and trying to execute the game plan. That’s what brings me joy now since I’m not playing anymore.”
This week and this return to Winnipeg, though, is all about what’s already in the rearview mirror. It’s about reminiscing with old teammates and friends. It’s about thanking those who helped get him to this day – including his brother Robert, who wouldn’t let him quit in the spring of 2007.
And it’s about reflecting on the road travelled from Tennille, Georgia all the way to the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame,
“It’s crazy,” Edwards said. “To come from a small town like I did… I knew about Canada, but I swear I thought Canada was all igloos when I was growing up.
“I thought it was cold all the time, that the people lived with penguins and lived in igloos. And when I got there, I found out how beautiful it was. I tell the people all the time if they get the chance they should get up there, especially in the summers.”
October works, too. And especially when a man is front and centre during hall of fame week.
Photo by Derek Mortensen