- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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When Purdue coach Danny Hope and his staff watched tape of Antavian Edison in high school, they liked what they saw.
When Hope went to Fort Meyers, Fla., to meet Edison, he didn't see much at all.
"He probably didn't weigh 140 pounds," Hope said. "I think he was 138 pounds when I met him."
Edison, who received few offers coming out of high school, says he was closer 150 pounds. Whatever he weighed, he needed to bulk up to play Big Ten football. Four years of Rust Belt living and Purdue's training table, where Edison gets fed "three or four times a day," have helped the senior check in at 181 pounds.
But Edison's biggest gains as a Boilermaker haven't been on the scale -- or on the field, for that matter. His strides as both a college student and a football student have set him up for success in his final season at Purdue. Hope and Boilers receivers coach Patrick Higgins use words like mature and accountable to describe Edison, who needed to grow up and has.
"He took ownership of what he wanted to become," Higgins said. "He's actually getting to the point now where he's buying into that you have to do all the things around football for people to respect you in football. That's taking care of your personal life, your academic life, your spiritual life, all those things we try to influence young men with.
"He's finally taking ownership of that process, and it's showing in his preparation, his meeting demeanor and his practice demeanor."
It's also showing up on Saturdays. Edison ranks fourth in the Big Ten in receptions (6 rpg) and fifth in receiving yards (71.2 ypg). Although he has played one fewer game than most of the league's top wideouts, he's tied for the Big Ten lead in touchdown receptions with five in four contests.
Edison produced in his first three seasons -- he led Purdue with 584 receiving yards in 2011. But he's taking his game to a new level this fall for the Boilers, who open Big Ten play Saturday against Michigan.
"Antavian Edison," Hope said, "is hitting on all cylinders."
Higgins saw a change in Edison during the summer, and it's not hard to pinpoint the precipitating event. On May 6, just after arriving home to Fort Meyers after completing his final exams at Purdue, Edison was arrested on a felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon. Police found a loaded gun and ammunition in the car Edison was driving. His uncle, Devon Edison, also was in the car and was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Edison immediately called Higgins and Hope to tell them what happened, and that he had committed no crime. He took to Twitter as well, tweeting, "I have never owned a Gun or found a need to. I don't have enemies. Just a loving family who put God first!"
"It was a scary situation, but I had all my faith in the Lord and I knew I would come out of it because I was innocent," Edison told ESPN.com. "I didn't do anything wrong. I had just got home off the plane and everything. It was definitely intimidating because you don't know what’s going to happen in the end, but I just kept my faith."
Higgins said Edison was very forthright didn't try to hide anything when he called. Although the coaches didn't make any immediate public comments, they expected Edison to be cleared. Three weeks later, police dropped the weapons charge against Edison. Hope released a statement saying the staff "always believed it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"It woke him up a little bit, showing that things can be taken away," Higgins said. "Those are some of the life lessons we always try to get across to kids. Every day, you have choices to make, and a choice in a matter of 30 seconds can ruin your life. So that event back home had a lasting impression upon him. It would change anybody if you had dreams you wanted to accomplish."
Edison describes the incident as "a bump in the road" but acknowledges it might have accelerated his maturity.
"I never was a person to go out," he said, "but I definitely don't go out now."
Unless it's for passes, of course.
A slot receiver nicknamed "Breeze" who certainly runs like it -- he clocked a 10.7 in the 100-meter dash in high school -- Edison has evolved into a more complete player. His blocking is markedly improved, and he's more disciplined in his route-running after freelancing too often as a younger player.
Higgins often talks to Purdue's receivers about "taking ownership of the process" to be the best they can be. Edison is buying in during his final season.
"I definitely feel involved as a leader," he said. "I try to get my receivers going. These younger guys look up to me as a leader, so I try to be a good role model. It's just maturity.
"We've been through adversity, and we definitely stuck together. Overcoming it definitely helps you mature as a person."
After informing Purdue's coaches of his legal situation in May, Edison gave them one final message before hanging up.
"He goes, 'The next time you see my name is the paper is when I get my degree,'" Higgins recalled. "That right there was a big step forward."
Edison is on track to graduate in May, but if he keeps up his play for Purdue, he'll be making a few more headlines before then.