ALAMEDA -– At 310 pounds, Mario Edwards Jr. could stand still and do a backflip. It’s that innate freakish athleticism that made him the nation’s top prep recruit in 2012. It also led him to believe he could play at any weight.
That’s partially true. Edwards was a pretty good player at 300-plus. He’s far better at 280 pounds.
Then Florida State defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri chose to compare and contrast Edwards the player at each weight. Edwards saw the difference, and knew he had to get down.
“I think he can look and understand the work it takes to be successful,” said Sunseri, now Raiders linebackers coach. “He was so dominant in high school based on athleticism that it took him a while to learn what it takes (to succeed). … Sometimes reality has to happen.”
That struck last season, when Edwards dropped significant weight, had a strong junior season and an excellent pre-draft process. He ended up getting drafted No. 35 overall by the Raiders, and comes to the East Bay hungry and ready to prove his worth.
“His best football is ahead of him,” Sunseri said. “If I’m Mario Edwards, I come in with a chip on my shoulder after falling to the second round. Coaching guys with chips on their shoulder is pretty fun.”
Edwards didn’t have one as a collegian. His prep success caused his work ethic to wane.
“Coming out No. 1 in the nation, people are always saying you’re good at this and that, you can tend to relax,” Edwards said. “You take your foot off the pedal a little bit, and now I know that was the wrong thing to do. My dad says you either get worse or get better. Taking my foot off the gas led me to get worse. I got a little too comfortable and that led to me coming in overweight.”
He’s at prime weight to play the Raiders’ LEO position, a concept imported from coordinator Ken Norton’s Seattle Seahawks background, which is a weakside edge rusher. He’s excited about the role, and his ability to contribute to the Raiders defense.
It also helps that Sunseri is here to help with the transition.
“Consistency is going to be the most important thing,” Sunseri said. “The weight will be addressed here. He’s a talented young man. This kid is going to come in here and play. It’s fun coming to work here everyday. He’ll enjoy it. We’re extremely excited to have him as a part of our organization.”