Blue Bombers all-star receiver Terrence Edwards, bottom, is hoping a series of long scoring drives will wear down Airabin Justin, left, Rontarius Robinson and the rest of the Saskatchewan defence on Sunday. (John Woods/Canadian Press)
One hot Bomber
Receiver Terrence Edwards has sights on Grey Cup
Last Updated Sat., Nov. 24, 2007
A football factory, Georgia's Westlake High School became the training ground last off-season for a Canadian Football League receiver coming off a trying 2006 campaign.
Terrence Edwards joined his older brother Robert of the Toronto Argonauts, Winnipeg slotback Milt Stegall and B.C. defenders Korey Banks and Dante Marsh for daily workouts at the Fulton County school, which boasted six former players in the National Football League in 2005.
The younger Edwards wanted to get in the best shape possible before testing the free-agent waters after Montreal Alouettes general manager Jim Popp chose not to offer the former NFLer a contract.
"I had to call [Blue Bombers general manager] Brendan [Taman] to make sure we were going to sign [Edwards]. I couldn't believe how much talent he had, but they didn't give him a chance to showcase himself in Montreal," Stegall, the CFL's all-time touchdown leader, told CBCSports.ca ahead of Sunday's Grey Cup matchup against Saskatchewan.
Taman granted Stegall his wish on May 24, signing Edwards to a one-year plus an option contract.
"Just seeing what he could do [in the off-season], the routes he ran, his attitude, his work ethic, I knew he was a person that could do some good things in this league."
He was right. Edwards earned a starting job out of training camp under coach Doug Berry — his offensive co-ordinator in Montreal — and set the tone with 109 reception yards in a 39-39 Week 1 tie against Edmonton.
The six-foot, 171-pound Edwards didn't let up, finishing second to B.C's Geroy Simon in league receiving with a career highs in receptions (80), yards (1,280) and touchdowns (nine). He was also named a CFL and East Division all-star for the first time in three seasons.
"Mentally, I feel like I'm a better player than I was last year, just knowing the game," said Edwards, who caught 33 passes for 393 yards in a part-time role with Montreal in 2006. "I was in and out of the lineup for various reasons [last season]. Now I just feel like anything thrown my way I'm ready for.
"On this team, they're looking for me to make a big play, to do something to help this team win."
Bombers trio demands attention
Berry will be looking for big things from Edwards on Sunday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto (CBC pre-game, 3:30 p.m. ET), where Winnipeg will be seeking its first Grey Cup championship since 1990.
The 28-year-old has hauled in nine passes for 90 yards in this year's playoffs, but is still looking for his first touchdown. Derick Armstrong, Stegall and Edwards will draw plenty of attention from a defensive secondary that was looked upon by some earlier in the season as Saskatchewan's weak link.
Edwards caught a 12-yard pass for a major in a 31-26 loss to Saskatchewan on Sept. 2 in Regina. The following week he caught seven passes for 52 yards in a 34-15 Blue Bombers rout at home.
"I think both teams have got tremendously better from the two times we played," Edwards said, adding time of possession will be a key factor in Sunday's game. "You can have the best defence in the world, but if you got 10- to 15-play drives [to deal with] you're gonna wear down a little bit. We just gotta use our talents to our advantage."
One of those talents, starting quarterback Kevin Glenn, will be watching from the sidelines after breaking his left arm in last week's East final victory over Toronto. Edwards has been working throughout the week on timing with little-known Ryan Dinwiddie, who will make his first CFL start.
"We have to be more prepared [as an offence] than we were with Kevin," said Edwards, a standout receiver for the University of Georgia Bulldogs from 1999 to 2002. "[Dinwiddie] sees a lot of things [on the sidelines] that Kevin doesn't.
"I think he's been in the games mentally, just not physically [this season]. With that, he's prepared for this game. I don't think the Roughriders can show him anything he's not prepared for."
Edwards will also be prepared, no doubt drawing from his Grey Cup experiences the last two seasons with Montreal, both losses to B.C. and Edmonton.
And he'll have a big supporter in his brother Robert, who said he will be pulling for the Blue Bombers.
"I've always said that if I'm ever in a game and I lose, I want the team that beat me to win it all because then I can say we got beat by the best team," Robert Edwards said.
'Blood's thicker than water': Robert Edwards
"I'm always going to cheer for my brother. Blood's thicker than water. He's going to be there when this is all over."
The biggest difference Robert has seen in his brother this season is his work ethic.
"He's always been good, so much better than everybody that he's never had to work at it, but I think last off-season he worked at it."
Terrence agreed, saying a similar work ethic in 2003 may have seen him remain in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons.
"For some reason I just relied on my God-given talent [in the past]," he said, "but God puts you in a place where he wants you to be, so I'm happy where I'm at."
That feeling is probably shared by Blue Bombers management, which is expected to exercise the team option in Edwards's contract for 2008.
"I think I've done enough for them to bring me back," Edwards said. "I don't think [Sunday's] game [will be the deciding factor] in them keeping me or not. I think it would be in the best interests for both of us [for me to stay] because I love playing in Winnipeg.
"I like the team we have. This is one of the closest teams I've been on … I'm fully confident that I'll be back in Winnipeg."
Maybe as a Grey Cup champion.
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