SHIPPENSBURG — Former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards visited the campus of Shippensburg University Thursday to deliver a motivational speech. The lecture entitled “Your Life Plan” was made by Edwards to benefit the H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Excel) Diversity Scholarship Program.
Edwards was not in the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center to talk pro football, but that didn’t stop the former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback from sharing what he knows best. The 59-year old held a press conference that lasted less than 20 minutes, but in that time he was able to touch on current topics of the NFL.
First up was the highly publicized situation the Miami Dolphins find themselves in with Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. Martin left the Dolphins during the 2013 season due to depression after being bullied by teammates, most notably Incognito.
“Well, obviously, the culture in Miami is something that was very puzzling to me,” said Edwards, who served as head coach for the New York Jets (2001-2005) and Kansas City Chiefs (2006-2008). “The first thing you realize as a head coach, that’s probably the first thing you address, is the locker room conduct. I did that when I became a head coach.
“The head coach has to really set the standard and the environment of what’s expected and what’s not. And I think that was overlooked by the staff, by players and that’s what’s so sad about this. Players are directly involved with it. And for it to go to that extreme, it’s not the norm.”
Also making headlines is Michael Sam, a defensive end from Missouri who became the first NFL draft prospect to reveal that he is gay.
“I would be surprised if the National Football League does not embrace this,” Edwards said. “I would think if the University of Missouri can do it, why can’t the National Football League. The bottom line is this. If we drafted him and I was the head coach, I would basically tell him this. ‘You’re here to be a football player, and this is what we drafted you for. You get to speak on who you are — a gay football player — one time. You get one shot at it. You get to talk to the press they’re going to ask you all the questions. And then everything else is about football.’”
Close to the heart of many football fans in the central Pennsylvania area are the Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Edwards raved at the job first-year head coach Chip Kelly did with Philadelphia, calling it “marvelous” for being able to change his offense to suit quarterback Nick Foles.
As for the Steelers, Edwards noted the struggles and injury trouble that the offensive line had on the team, but praised head coach Mike Tomlin for leading the team to an 8-8 record following a 0-4 start.
Shippensburg has had its fair share of success in the NFL with Pro Bowl alumni such as Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes and Green Bay Packers fullback John Kuhn. Edwards said small school players like Grimes and Kuhn must have “tremendous will” to establish themselves in the NFL.
“It’s not how big you are, how fast you are. And I think that’s what’s so great about football,” Edwards said. “It really doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s a matter of getting opportunity. Both of these guys have gotten opportunities and done a fantastic job. And if you like guys from smaller schools, give them a chance. I’ve always believed in that.”
Following his session with the media Edwards also spoke privately to the Shippensburg football team for about an hour. The recently revitalized Red Raiders under head coach Mark Maciejewski have won 25 games in the past three seasons.