By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/30/11
Herman Edwards is living proof that attributes such as a strong work ethic, perseverance and the ability to play in a team setting are some the best ingredients for success – on and off the playing field.
Those qualities are surely a major reason the former NFL standout and head coach will serve as the keynote speaker at the 2012 US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion, Jan. 13-15 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Edwards will deliver the keynote at 7 p.m. Jan. 13.
Lacrosse coaches, officials, players and fans age 18 and over can save $45 on convention registration by registering online at www.uslacrosse.org/2012convention before Dec. 28.
Back in 1977, Edwards was a free agent cornerback out of San Diego State hoping to make the roster for a young Philadelphia Eagles coach named Dick Vermeil.
Not only did Edwards land a pro spot, he reeled off 135 straight starts over 9 seasons in Philly. Of course, he is most known for making the recovery and winning touchdown in 1978 in the “Miracle at the Meadowlands,” a victory that eventually helped propel the Eagles all the way into Super Bowl XV in 1981.
Edwards said there were 22 free agents on that Eagles squad that defeated Dallas in a memorable NFC championship game that season. Why was that team so successful?
It played with heart and passion, and it played as a team.
“I think Dick (Vermeil) brought about opportunity,” said Edwards, who coached five seasons with the New York Jets and three with the Kansas City Chiefs and is now an ESPN analyst. “He really didn’t care if you were a first round pick or a free agent.
“He wanted guys that understood what you could do for the team. You may have talent, but he wanted the best guys for the team, that understood the team concept.”
Edwards said he plans to speak on Jan. 13 about maximizing your talents.
“I would tell them that talent can be a curse, if you don’t live up to your talent” he said “God gives you talent; it’s a gift.”
“But work ethic is still important, passion is still important. When you work hard, somebody will notice you. You don’t have to be the biggest or the fastest. That’s what makes team sports so unique.”
“You see it in football. The coach will figure out what you do well and if you buy into the team, they’ll find a place for you.”
Edwards remains one of just five men to lead two teams to the playoffs in his first season at the helm. Edwards continues to be involved in numerous endeavors that help people, including young athletes. In 2002, he was named the Big Brother of the Year by the Catholic Big Brothers For Boys and Girls in New York. A year later, he was named to the Positive Coaching Alliance’s (PCA) National Advisory Committee. US Lacrosse and PCA are organizational partners.
Edwards has another message: Play your sport to promote your sport.
“Any time you play or coach a sport you cannot lose sight that we are all keepers of the game,” he said. ‘We are there to promote the game for the betterment of a generation of kids that will follow us.
“Making All-American is one thing, but at the end it’s what you did to make the game better. What legacy will you leave for those to follow?
“I always said to my players that our job is to make the game better than when we got there. You have to repay the game. Look at the NFL; that’s why it’s where it is now.
“It is also very important for the integrity of the game that you play it with a certain passion. I believe you have to have passion if want to play.
“One play may take 10 seconds in football. But all the preparation and behind-the-scenes work that helped get you there is what is so important. You have to make sacrifices at every level.
“You must make them for the betterment of the team. That’s what I like about lacrosse; it promotes the team sport and promotes sacrifice and trust.”
Edwards said the Eagles trusted in themselves even more after he scooped up a fumbled handoff from Joe Pisarcik to Larry Csonka in the closing seconds on a wind-swept day at the Meadowlands late in the 1978 season. That touchdown, which won a key game for the Eagles in the “Miracle at the Meadowlands,” will go down in Philadelphia lore as one of the most memorable and shocking wins ever.
“Dick Vermeil was trying to build a program and we won four games our first year (1977) and then all of a sudden we are right there on the cusp of maybe getting over hump in 1978 and things looked bleak,” Edwards said. “We had a bad game and we were going to lost the Giants; and we were a better football team.
“At that point in time you don’t realize the impact. That win gave us momentum, and it catapults us into the playoffs. Now, all of a sudden we feel we can win games when it doesn’t look like we can win. We find ways to win games from that period on. I am not going to say one play changed everything, but you peck away at the little things and you accomplish those before you win the big games, like beating Dallas.”
Edwards concluded by talking about what the Eagles accomplished under Vermeil in that period of the late 70s and early 80s. The team featured such low draft picks, retreads and free agents as Wilbert Montgomery, Claude Humphrey and Delaware County’s Vince Papale.
But on a cold January in 1981, the Birds pummeled the hated Dallas Cowboys, 20-7, to earn the city’s first trip to the Super Bowl. And even though the Eagles lost to Oakland, years later, the memory of the win over Dallas has become one of the greatest day in Philly sports history.
“I tell people this all the time. I have been involved in a few championship games, but there is nothing better than winning an NFC or AFC championship game,” Edwards said. “I still remember the sound of that stadium. It was the wildest it has ever been and when the clock hit zeroes, seeing the fans react I get chills every time I think about it.
“I remember saying to Jaws (quarterback Ron Jaworski), ‘We are going to the Super Bowl. Are you kidding me?’ Really, it was unbelievable. Beating Dallas will always be our Super Bowl.”
Note – The general public is welcome at the US Lacrosse Fan Fest, Jan. 14 inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Fan Fest will feature some 150 lacrosse manufacturers and retailers with the latest lacrosse gear and apparel, demonstrations and autographs by the U.S. National Team players and Philadelphia Wings, and a sneak peak at the “Crooked Arrows” lacrosse movie trailer. $10 tickets sold onsite; just $5 for players wearing lacrosse jerseys. Doors open at 11 a.m.