Edwards Sr. to mentor Seminoles

Extra steps taken with NCAA to clear hiring in player-development role

Updated: July 30, 2012, 10:55 AM ET
By David M. Hale | NoleNation

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The receiver broke inside, and the corner had a beat.

The throw came in, and the corner reached in his hand, swatted it away, and both players tumbled to the ground.

Mario Edwards rushed in from a few feet away, chased the corner down as he retreated to the sideline and patted him on the helmet.

"That's it, young man," Edwards said. "That's how you do it."

Every defensive back at the July session of Jimbo Fisher Camp earned the moniker of "young man" from Edwards, and they all left with some bit of advice or insight or glowing compliment from the man who dominated receivers as a corner for Florida State more than a decade ago.

Much has changed since Edwards' glory days on a football field.

His NFL stock tumbled during his senior season, and his professional career flamed out after five up-and-down seasons.

He's seen the peaks of stardom and knows the struggles that come with it. That's what caught Fisher's eye this spring, when he tabbed Edwards to take over as FSU's director of player development.

"I think he can affect kids," Fisher said. "He's very good with kids, and I think he's walked that walk."

The walk started before Edwards arrived at Florida State in 1996, when his son Mario Edwards Jr. was born.

Through four years in Tallahassee, Edwards Jr. watched his father's Seminoles career unfold, and Edwards struggled to balance football and family.

Now, both are back in Tallahassee -- the father a mentor, the son a freshman defensive tackle and the top recruit in the country just a year ago.

"He was a pup," Edwards said of his son's early days in Tallahassee in the 1990s. "He's a full-grown dog now."

Father, son join team in same season

Edwards calls it a dream to work at his alma mater, to coach football, and to see his son take the field in the same uniform he wore as a player.

Mario Edwards
Nicholas Sandoval/UnderArmourMario Edwards Sr. will mentor son Mario Jr., a prized 2012 signee, and his Florida State teammates in a player-development position with the Seminoles.
"The timing that all this has happened is unbelievable," Edwards said.

It's a sentiment that has been echoed by others who wonder if the timing of the hire and the signing of the nation's top high school prospect might be a bit more than coincidence.

Edwards Jr. committed early to FSU, but by October of last year, his loyalty began to waver.

Texas was in hot pursuit, and rumors swirled that Edwards Jr. would head to Oklahoma. While he never officially decommitted from Florida State, the Seminoles' prospects began to look bleak. By signing day, however, Edwards Jr. was back on board. He's already wowing his veteran teammates during summer drills in Tallahassee.

His father arrived this summer, too, taking over the player development role that had been held by another former FSU defensive back -- Terrell Buckley, who departed this spring for a coaching position at Akron.

This is something of a gray area according to NCAA rules, which officially forbid any direct or indirect financial aid given to players or their family members, including employment, according to article 13.2 of the NCAA's Division I football bylaws.

Edwards' position with Florida State will pay him $70,000 per year, without benefits, in a contract that runs from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013, according to information provided by the school following an open records request.

The rules aren't entirely black-and-white, however. Even in men's basketball, where family members of athletes are specifically forbidden to be employed by the athletics department for a period of two years prior to and after the athlete's enrollment, exceptions are made for coaching positions.

The player development director job is not officially deemed a coaching position at FSU, but Edwards will work closely with the coaching staff.

According to a Florida State spokesman, the university worked closely with the NCAA during the hiring process before Edwards was brought on board, and the NCAA offered no significant obstacles.

"His hiring would have gone through compliance anyway, but extra proactive steps were taken since his son was a student-athlete," the spokesman said.

Advising from experience as player

When it comes to Edwards' qualifications, he's a logical candidate, Fisher said.

The official job description, according to the university, requires a candidate to "organize community projects, develop educational curriculum and assist with campus and gameday operations." Fisher sees it as much more.

"I think it is important to have a guy that has walked in these kids' shoes and made it at the next level and has dealt with some adversity, dealt with things and where they've come from and how they do it, to understand some of the big-picture things, having pro experience, being an ex-player," Fisher said.

On that front, Edwards is an obvious choice.

From college stardom to the NFL to coaching his son in high school, Edwards' life has been defined by football and raising children.

He's learned lessons he wants to pass along to the current crop of Seminoles, and that's a valuable commodity, Edwards insists.

"Hopefully I've done enough things right that they can look at me and say, 'Hey, this guy did something right to be in that position he's in,' and just be that positive role model for them," Edwards said. "That's what the world is missing -- especially a lot of our black kids, they're missing a positive role model. If I can come back and be that, then I think that's very positive and it will help the program out tremendously."

At another time, in a year in which his son wasn't poised to become a star, that might seem a noble goal. But timing is everything, Edwards said.

As the horde of high school players wrapped up afternoon practice at last week's camp, Edwards was the last staffer still on the field. He stopped and chatted with a few players, offering a slap on the back as they departed.

This is the job, and Edwards understands the qualifications.

"Most of these kids aspire to get to that next level and be successful on this level," Edwards said. "I've already done that. Hopefully me being that role model for them will help these guys and make their journey a lot easier."