Brad Edwards played professional football for nine years. Now, he is coming to a school with no football team, but a solid legacy in many other sports.
Edwards is the new athletic director at George Mason University. A former Washington Redskins free safety, he will begin his new job July 1, succeeding Tom O'Connor as the head of the Patriots' 20-sport intercollegiate program.
"My decision had a lot to do with watching this institution grow," Edwards said. "It's a school with an international reach, in a large media market, with a national athletics brand. We're going to educate people and be committed to academics."
Edwards' athletic experience extends beyond his NFL career. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Edwards served as an assistant athletic director at his alma mater. After spending several years in the business world, Edwards returned to college athletics in 2009 as the athletic director at Newberry College, an NCAA Division II school in South Carolina. Before his appointment at George Mason, Edwards was the athletic director at Jacksonville University for two years.
"South Carolina was the most significant experience for me," Edwards said. "It helped me see what it took to operate successfully at a high level, in a place where several sports could potentially win a national championship every year. Newberry forced me to dive into the weeds, and do some of the tasks that I could bypass at the Southeastern Conference level. At Jacksonville, I was able to really hone my management skills."
Edwards was a highly touted defensive back at South Carolina, and the Minnesota Vikings chose him during the second round of the 1987 NFL Draft. He played for two seasons with the Vikings, then came to the Redskins before the 1990 season. From 1990-93, Edwards was the team's starting free safety and a stalwart on the 1991 Washington team, which beat Buffalo during Super Bowl XXV. He finished his career in Atlanta, where he played for three years with the Falcons before retiring after the 1996 campaign.
Despite Edwards' extensive NFL background, George Mason will not be adding a football program.
"The financial numbers of football are very tough," George Mason president Angel Cabrera said at Edwards' introductory press conference. "In a context where student affordability is at stake, and the fact that student loans right now are at the highest level they've ever been, in that context to add something to the university that would put affordability at risk is something we just cannot contemplate."
Although he won't have to start a football program, Edwards will be challenged to bring the Patriots' existing sports to a high level. During its first year as a member of the Atlantic 10 conference, the George Mason men's basketball team finished with an 11-20 overall mark and a 4-12 league record. In women's basketball, the Patriots went 8-23 and posted one conference win out of 16 tries.
Edwards will inherit several programs that made an instant impression in the Atlantic 10. The Patriots won conference championships in men's soccer, baseball, and women's indoor and outdoor track and field. The men's soccer team reached the second round of the NCAA tournament, while the baseball squad played during the postseason for the first time since 2009.
Edwards said that in the crowded and competitive Washington, D.C., sports market, George Mason would have to win to make its mark.
"I've been a part of winning organizations throughout my life, and we have a real opportunity to win championships here," he said. "Winning attracts attention, and attendance at our events is one of the things that will help us get the resources. And I want to get the coaches and the student-athletes all of the resources that they need."
Edwards has a full understanding of the challenges that await him, which include upgrades to the athletic facilities.
"We'll do a full review of all of our facilities in the first 90 days," he said. "Some of the improvements will dovetail in with the university's master plan."
Edwards, who once roamed the Redskins' secondary with Hall of Famer Darrell Green and ran hills on the George Mason campus to prepare for the football season, seems ready for the rigorous days ahead.
"I will be one of the most competitive people to sit in that seat," Edwards said. "It's a job where you get up in the morning and go to bed at night knowing that you have full responsibility. I'll pick up the javelin, throw it as far as I can, and say, 'That's the new normal.' "