by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Bryan Edwards picked up a cool nickname, or rather a hot one, in ninth grade, when he played football wearing red gloves, and one day was seen eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos that stained his hand reddish. From then on he’s been “Firefingers” to his teammates.
Those fiery fingers are just one element of a formidable 6-foot-4, 205-pound physique which, combined with a quick mind, positive attitude, stellar work ethic and leadership qualities, make Edwards a defensive force for the Elk River Elks.
The rangy middle linebacker has been the Elks’ leading tackler the past two seasons and a significant part of the school’s football revival. He’s also a rugged rebounder and defender on the basketball team.
“Without a doubt, Bryan is our captain out there on defense,” said coach Steve Hamilton. “He is the guy that gets them ready to play. Everybody is always in the right spot when Bryan is out there.”
As the MLB, Edwards polices the line of scrimmage and ranges from sideline to sideline to make tackles. He was the top tackler last year by a wide margin with 114 and leads again this year. In his all-conference junior season he also made two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.
“More than that, he is a good kid and a good student,” said Hamilton. “He is going to be a success in whatever he chooses to be.”
Edwards was front-and-center last year when the Elks shook off a string of losing seasons by going 6-3, highlighted by an upset of Rogers.
“I was not surprised, because I had high expectations going in,” Edwards reflects. “This year, I have high expectations, too. We are really confident. I think we should be 3-0, and those were three of the toughest teams we’ll play. I personally think we can go far this year.”
The Elks have beaten Centennial 37-13 (first win over the Cougars since 2004) while losing to Blaine 28-14 (after leading 14-0) and to Maple Grove 28-25. Last night they played Andover.
Edwards makes a quick read on the offense as they line up, and calls out what defense to run on each play. “I watch a lot of film. I study the running backs and linemen and what their tendencies are. We go by down and distance, and their tendencies. So, we have a good idea what’s coming but of course we don’t know for sure.”
“Firefingers” had a good junior year on a 14-13 basketball team, averaging six points, six rebounds and two assists off the bench, leading the team .528 shooting. The Elks have a good chance to be a contender this winter.
“Bryan Edwards is a coach’s dream,” said coach Randy Klasen. “Whether it’s a game or a practice, Brian is always pushing himself to do his best. He listens to what the coaching staff tells him, and then goes out and puts the words into action. He is a great defensive player and rebounder who will give this year’s team a consistent inside scorer.”
Edwards calls basketball a close second-favorite sport but nothing can compare to football. “I love everything about football. I love hitting people,” said Edwards, who’s also a hurdler in track with moderate success.
Hamilton sees good potential in his defensive captain as a college athlete.
“He’s just tapping into what he is going to be as a football player when he goes off to college, and he’s not playing three sports and can work out year round and eat at the training table,” said the coach. “He’s probably gong to be a six-four, 235-pound linebacker and I think he can have a great career beyond here.”
THE EDWARDS SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 17 …. Family: parents, Julie and Mike; sisters, Taylor, 20, and Dani, 18; brother, Brad, 15 … Sports: football, basketball, track … Academics: 3.426 GPA …. Other activities: Fellowship of Christian Athletes …. College plans: undecided on college and major, wants to play football
Favorite stuff — Class: nets and racquets in PE, and math …. TV shows: “Family Guy,” “South Park,” “Sports Center” … Movies: “The Avengers,” “Transformers” … Food: wings at BWW … Drink: milk … Team: 49ers …. Athletes: Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Ray Lewis …. Kickback activities: soccer, tennis, volleyball