A Legend is Born by Tommy Edwards
As the youngest and only boy, I struggled to understand my place in the family. As my parents were often preoccupied with their own interpersonal issues, I mimicked my older male and female cousins who were older and infatuated with the NFL!
It seems like everyone that I knew had chosen an affiliation with a specific professional football team. Like any young boy I wanted to earn the respect and love of my father. So, I had to pick my team. People often would tell me that my dad was an incredible football player reminding me that he had played for the Buffalo Bills blocking for OJ Simpson! I would not be swayed. It would be my choice.
I studied the NFL teams, logos, and cities and decided to go with the Steelers and Raiders. The Steelers had the closest color scheme to the Radford bobcats (my high school team), and the Raiders helmet logo look strikingly like photographs of my uncle. He was a hero of mine because he continued to play junior college football after having his left eye removed due to cancer discovered in his tear duct at age 19.
It happened at the same time my dad was in the Buffalo Bills training camp, earning a spot on the 1970 roster. He was put on waivers because he flew home to see his brother after emergency surgery. I would hear stories about the young man who were an eyepatch from the pictures at my grandparent’s house. My uncle, who died at 21, was my dad’s younger brother and my name sake.
As The youngest of five grandchildren, I was often told by the older kids to get out of the way because I was too small to participate in whatever athletic endeavor they were playing, One time, having walked too close to my sister who was at bat, thinking in my mind that I was acting as the empire, I caught her follow through with my head. My sister used an aluminum baseball bat and swung for the fences only to dent my head instead.
I was not a natural athlete. I struggled with hand-eye coordination. When teams were being picked, I was off in the last chosen. In the fifth grade I was found to have both exercise-induced asthma, as well as 20/200 vision in my right eye. Therefore, I had no depth perception and different types of athletic activities triggered asthma attacks. Glasses and an albuterol inhaler helped a lot.
I enjoyed bike riding, exploring and playing in the woods, and making things. In the summer of 1985, I discovered skateboarding. It became a major focus in my life and contributed largely to my extraordinary balance.
Skateboarding is seen as a fad by majority of the folks in southwest Virginia, including my parents. My dad specifically detested the punk rock affiliation and image associated with this new sport, even after having interacted with Freestyle skateboard champion, innovator, and legend Rodney Mullen during the 1987 Swatch tour when they came to Roanoke.
Towards the end of the ninth grade, I came home from school to find my skateboard and all the associated music, art, and clothing removed from my room. I was told that I was no longer allowed to skateboard because it would cause me to get injured and not allow me to play football, to which I was still unsure of in my own mind. With this overt denial of my personality and self-expression, I generated considerable amount of anger and frustration which fostered a second secret life of self-medication to deal with anxiety and depression, as well as ease the social anxiety to allow greater interactions with the opposite sex with hopes of those and your actions leading to sex.
By my Junior year of high school, I was dominating Virginia football. I made the first team all state honors as a running back and second team all state honors as a linebacker. This cemented my future as a major college prospect. During the two per day preseason practice sessions in my senior year, I broke down crying from the pressure to succeed – it was unbearable. My coach took me under his wing and spoke to me in a genuine and human way and eased my stress. I had been on the precipice of quitting. The violence of the sport didn’t jive with my inner self. Despite all that, I continued to play as my teammates, many of whom I had known since preschool, had been counting on me to lead them into our senior year season.
After that my future was planned. I was a consensus all American. I axcepted a full scholarship to Virginia tech, where my dad had been an all star running back and linebacker in the late 60s. Many of his college teammates including head coach Frank Beamer had taken over the program following Bill Dooley, who left the program with restricted number of scholarships with the program on NCAA oversight, having narrowly escaped the death penalty. Dooley had also been the athletic director and had allotted all of the women’s sports scholarships to players on his football team!
Frank, along with the enthusiasm and energy of multiple teammates, was able to generate a considerable amount of alumni support by tapping folks like my father to utilize their notoriety and business connections to generate donations, sponsorships, and recruits. Many of the sons of those who played with Beamer were heavily recruited and signed the scholarships at Virginia Tech including myself of which I had achieved greatest accolades of any of the legacies at that time.
- Intro: All-American Touchdown Tommy Edwards Serializes His Story.
- Part 1: Tommy Edwards: All American Exile — Societal and family pressure
- Part 2: Tommy Edwards: A Child Becomes a Legacy — A football legend is born
- Part 3: Tommy Edwards: Manipulation Conspiracy — Grooming Genetics
- Part 4: Tommy Edwards: The Downward Spiral — Brain damage and CTE Symptoms
- Part 5: Tommy Edwards: Welcome to Hell — Science-CTE deniers/Football Traditionalist
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