In 1998, Robert Edwards was on top of the world. He had just finished rushing for 1,115 yards in his first professional season for the Patriots, emerging as a top-flight back with significant room to grow into an NFL superstar. Then, out of nowhere, the one-time University of Georgia star suffered one of the worst, most bizarre ACL injuries in history in an NFL rookie flag football game during the league's All-Pro weekend in Hawaii. He nearly lost his leg, couldn't return to professional football for more than three years and, after a cup of coffee with the Miami Dolphins, he landed in the CFL, putting in three years with the Montreal Alouettes and a season with the Toronto Argonauts.
All that ended in 2008, when Edwards was released by the Argonauts. A year passed, and the former star decided it was time to work with people who had a chance to reach the NFL, like him; he became a high school football coach.
Edwards took the reins at Fairburn (Ga.) Arlington Christian School in 2009, racking up 6-5 records in both of his first two seasons at the helm. Now, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he's expanding his reach, starting what is, in essence, a combined football training and teen inspiration program he's dubbed "STAR Training Academy." The effort focuses on a two-day camp coached by Edwards and a crew of other former collegiate and NFL stars.
The traveling series of camps offer up football instruction to middle and high school athletes throughout Georgia, though Edwards made it clear that they aren't a traditional combine.
"This camp is strictly to teach the proper fundamentals and techniques to help players get ahead," Edwards told the Journal-Constitution. "There are combines out there to test numbers. Our camp is just about making kids better and I think the coaches we will have at our camp are the best around."
The two-day camps aren't free, but the minimal $35 price tag they carry is a small one compared to other combines or football camps. And the list of co-coaches that Edwards has lined up -- including former All-Pro linebacker Randall Godfrey, Super Bowl-winning defensive back Jermaine Phillips and Georgia (and, for a brief time, NFL) quarterbacks David Greene and D.J. Shockley -- is nothing to snicker at.
Whether the STAR Training Academy grows into the enterprise that Edwards foresees for it, or if Arlington Christian School eventually becomes a power program under his watch, remains to be seen. What is certain is that the former NFL star who may be most well-known as the answer to an odd trivia question (which rookie star tore his ACL in the NFL's final rookie beach flag football game?) is committed to giving back to the broad football community that helped rear him.
"The concept for the camp originated in [the STAR Training Academy coaches'] passion for football," Edwards wrote of STAR Training Academy. "We owe our careers to dedicated individuals who took the time to help us when we were student athletes. Now we want to offer the same support and provide a stepping stone for the young men in Georgia who dream of playing at the college or professional level."