Through the foundation which bears his name, 49ers wideout Braylon Edwards was acknowledged recently by ESPN for his efforts in contributing college scholarship money to several deserving high school students. Though he's been hampered by injuries in his first year in San Francisco, Edwards has taken on a leadership role with the team, sharing wisdom with his fellow receivers. 49ers.com spoke with Edwards about his charity work and his mindset heading into the postseason.
Q: ESPN recently aired a feature on the scholarship money you've provided to 79 college students, why was it important for you to get involved with such a cause?
A: We wanted to give back. My mom is always preaching about giving back, so when I made it to the NFL, we definitely wanted to show our appreciation and just give back to those less fortunate, but we didn't have the angle. We wanted it to be something we cared about and education seemed to be the consistent point. In Detroit, the high school graduation rate is the lowest in the country. And then when I was drafted by Cleveland (in 2005), I found out they had the third-lowest rate in the country. That just became my message. We decided to put a program together and try to give kids a chance.
Q: In watching the piece, how nice of a feeling was it for you to see the reaction of the children and their families who've been helped by your foundation?
A: It feels great to see that. The kids are very thankful, their parents are very thankful and it's definitely something I'm proud of. I can't wait until those kids finish college and go about their respective careers and hopefully they, too, can come back and give to the community. I think that's the best part about it for me, to see them be able to do something similar.
Q: You've made some deep playoff runs with the New York Jets in your career, including recent back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship game, what parallels do you see between those teams and this 49ers club?
A: I see some similarities, but this is a closer-knit team. I feel like this team has been through a lot together. The core guys that have been here have had to deal with all the regime changes and the downtimes when no one was picking this team. Now here we are, sitting atop the NFC West and competing to clinch a first-round bye. You can see everybody coming together. This is a very tight team and I think that's what gives us an edge. When you're coming down the stretch, things get harder, teams get tougher and things get more serious. Now we really have to focus and hone in to the little things to make it work.
Q: After dealing with knee and shoulder injuries at times this year, how are you approaching this last part of the season?
A: It is hard. I've never really been hurt. This is new to me, playing through injury. People want results right now and I understand them. I want to make plays for this team just like I was doing last year, scoring touchdowns in the playoffs. It's cool to be able to keep a good mindset and help these guys and give everything I can. The more you can do the better. I just want to give everything I can to help this team get wins in the playoffs.
Q: You took extra reps after Wednesday's practice, how important is that in preparing for a Christmas Eve matchup with a rising NFC West team like Seattle?
A: This being a short week for us, you've got to get in all the practice that you can. Taking some extra routes after practice is definitely a necessity so we can get that timing down before Saturday. If we can go out there and get a big win on Christmas Eve, that'd be a nice present for the people here in San Francisco as well as my family and friends watching back home.