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Texas linebacker Steve Edmond finds father figure in coach Charlie Strong

AUSTIN, Texas -- The scar across the bridge of Steve Edmond's nose came from a shotgun.

He earned it in East Texas during squirrel hunting season, back when he was 7 or 8. One of his father's buddies came over to show off a new firearm. The boy was offered a chance to shoot. Edmond didn't hold it quite right. The kickback got him pretty good.

The mark that remains provides genuine proof Edmond is, as his Texas teammates all say, one unapologetic country boy.

Maybe that's one reason why he and Charlie Strong get along so well. The Longhorns' senior middle linebacker is sure his head coach from rural Arkansas has fired a shotgun before, even if he hides his country cred these days.

"He in the city now," Edmond joked. "He thinks he's a city slicker."

In Strong, Edmond has found a coach with whom he can relate, one who understands him and pushes him. He's found a man he calls a father figure.

"He's kind of made me grow up," Edmond said, "and respect people, go to class, be accountable."

He hasn't had this kind of a bond with a coach since his high school days, when Daingerfield High defensive coordinator Jimmy Irvin helped the promising linebacker survive the roughest year of his life.

Edmond lost his father, Steven Edmond Sr., on Jan. 30, 2009, after a long bout with multiple sclerosis. His family suspects years of working in a steel mill and being exposed to sulfur contributed to his father's illness, yet his passing was sudden and stunning.

"He'd choked," Edmond said. "(Edmond's stepmother) did the Heimlich move and, after he choked, he started drinking some water. He choked again. They called the ambulance. They had to cut a hole in his throat, so they could put a tube in it so he could breathe. That right there scared him and caused him to have a heart attack. That's how he passed away."

The man was only 39, his son just a high school sophomore. He taught Steve Jr. everything he needed to know about being that country boy, the one who once caught so many crappie during a Saturday at the lake that he had to starting offering his haul to others.

Irvin stepped up and offered to become the role model Edmond was missing in 2009. The coach brought out the best in him during those trying times. He racked up 182 tackles his junior year and won the second of his three state titles, but tragedy struck again.

His uncle, Victor Edmond, was hit by a drunk driver while heading back from one of Steve's state playoff games. He passed on Dec. 2, 2009, a day before his 44th birthday. Vic was the life of the party at family gatherings, a former Daingerfield star and Stephen F. Austin lineman and the kind of guy who once bragged he took his shirt off at a park and left with three ladies.

"I know that was a lie," Edmond said with a smile, "but my uncle was a funny guy."

Through those rough months, Irvin was always there, the steady presence he leaned on to get by, the reason he's gotten this far. Two months after his uncle passed, Edmond found himself another family with the Longhorns.

He's experienced a revolving cast of coaching figures in his college years -- Texas is on its fourth defensive coordinator since Edmond committed to Will Muschamp in February 2010 -- but he's grateful it all led to Strong.

"I feel like him and Coach Irvin are the same. You can talk to them about anything and joke with them," Edmond said. "They're always going to hold you accountable. If you mess up something, they'll get on you. If you do something good, they're going to treat you like the best player ever. I love playing for them two guys."

Once seen as too slow and inconsistent, Edmond is now being asked do more than ever. Against Baylor, he was trusted to blitz constantly and responded with a career-best week in the film room and a career-high 19 tackles and two sacks. Edmond racked up another 15 and a sack Saturday in the win over Texas Tech.

He's up to 95 tackles, a team-high 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks on the year, and beginning to get called a leader by his head coach.

"He doesn't say much," Strong said last month, "but it's just how he carries himself and how he plays."

Edmond is still as country as ever these days, and his childhood fascination with guns never subsided. He's now collected eight, including a Smith & Wesson handgun he picked up in May, for shooting soda cans and targets back home.

He picked up a shotgun again for the first time at age 17, after Steve Sr. passed, in an effort to start getting over his fears. Despite telling all these stories, Edmond says he's still too shy. And he wonders what will come next. He refuses to end up in East Texas.

Return to Daingerfield, he says, and "you're stuck for good." If anybody can appreciate those no-going-back nerves, it's Strong.

"Every week he tells me my potential," Edmond said, "and that I can become one of the best."