Mario Edwards Jr. was a five-star prep recruit. He was a national champion at Florida State. He spent three slightly underwhelming years as a Seminole, with game tape that didn’t always match his awesome physical tools and football pedigree.
He’s Raider now. The past is no longer of concern. The imposing defensive lineman addressed weight fluctuations and occasionally taking his “foot off the pedal” during the pre-draft process. The Raiders were so confident in Edwards that they used an incredibly valuable second-round pick on him in last week’s NFL draft.
They see a bright future ahead, and coaches are confident they can mold extreme talent into consistent production.
“We think he’s a good prospect and we’re excited to work with him,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “To continue to bring up whatever negative things you can dig up from the past is not what we’re about.
“We’re about going forward from here. From today going forward, what can we do? What can we develop? What can we bring out? How can we help mold him and shape him and develop him into the kind of player we’re looking for? So we feel very confident about that and again, looking forward to getting started.”
Edwards got started on Friday afternoon at Raiders rookie minicamp. He showed up a lean, mean 277 pounds, and looked spry in his first practice as a pro. The Raiders’ cutting-edge, all-encompassing strength and conditioning program should keep him in shape while prepping for the season.
Edwards’ motivation is high, which is good for the Raiders defense.
“There is a chip on my shoulder from just naysayers or people that criticize me so much,” Edwards said. “Really, just I want to prove myself. I have a chip because I want to be the best that I can be. Other teammates and other people that came my way, I just want to go out there and prove that I am a good player.”
Edwards received sage advice from his father, Mario Edwards Sr., who played cornerback in the early 2000s.
“He said that this is no longer a scholarship situation. You don’t have four years,” Edwards said. “This is your job. You don’t have school, so there is no excuses why you can’t know the plays and everything like that, so approach it as a job and it’s an opportunity to be here.”
Edwards wanted an opportunity to be his best. The Raiders gave him one, something he won’t soon forget.
“I just want to show everybody that’s pretty much the past as far as weight issues and everything that happened in college or whatever,” Edwards said. “The Raiders believed in me, and they gave me an opportunity and a chance and that’s all I needed – an opportunity to go out there and prove myself.”