Probably the most criticized of the Raiders draft picks this year has been former Florida State defensive end, Mario Edwards. He has been seen as a first round talent who fell into the second round due to a perceived lack of effort and weight issues.
In his conference call following being drafted, he addressed questions about his effort and weight fluctuation and the former top recruit in the nation spoke openly about coming into his freshman year ‘overconfident'.
Even with all the criticisms, he got the seal of approval from Raiders linebackers coach Sal Sunseri who coached him on the defensive line at Florida State. The Raiders believed in him enough to take him with the 35th overall pick at the top of the second round.
"We just think he's a good young man," said Jack Del Rio. "They're all prospects. We think he's a good prospect. We're excited to work with him. 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."
For Edwards' part, he wants to justify the team's faith in him.
"I'm ready to just show everybody," said Edwards. "That's pretty much the past as far as weight issues and everything that happened in college or whatever. They believed in me and they gave me a chance and that's all I needed was an opportunity to show and go out there and prove myself."
Today was his first time hitting the practice field for the Raiders as it was the first day of rookie minicamp. No one likes being doubted, but for Edwards, it can be used to fuel him.
"Just a chip on my shoulder from just naysayers, people that criticize me so much and I really just want to prove it to myself," Edwards continued. "I have a chip on my shoulder because I want to be the best that I can be. . . just go out there and prove that I am a good player."
Football is in Edwards' blood. His father was a defensive back in the NFL, so much has been expected of Mario Jr. It also means he has the support of someone who has been through this experience and understands what it takes to make it at the highest level.
"[My father told me] just coming into this whole situation is that this is no longer a scholarship, you don't have four years, this is your job. You don't have school so there's no excuses why you can't know the plays and everything like that so approach as it is a job. It's an opportunity to be here."
Del Rio further emphasized the opportunity the players in this rookie minicamp have right now and the clean slate they are being given.
"Everybody that's here accomplished something to earn his way here, so it's really quite an honor to be here," Del Rio added. "These are young men that have played at a high level to make it to this point in life, where they have an opportunity to be in the Oakland Raiders' locker room. So that's quite an honor for them to do that, and from there, I told the guys last night that I don't really care how you got here. Everybody here is going to be evaluated and we will keep the players that we think can help us win games this fall."
I appears from the outset that Edwards is approaching his opportunity the right way. If he continues to approach his work with that mindset, he has a good chance of fulfilling his vast potential.