The 2020 NFL Draft is behind us, as we now look forward to training camp. The Atlanta Falcons added 26 rookies to the roster, with 20 of them being undrafted free agents. These young men will compete with the ultimate goal of making the roster, but if not, hopefully landing a spot on the practice squad. Being an UDFA, the road to making the final roster is difficult, but not impossible. In the past UDFA’s like Ryan Schraeder, Brian Poole, Olamide Zaccheaus and Sharrod Neasman have all defied the odds by making their way onto the Falcons roster. Recently, I’ve talked to fullback Mikey Daniel, offensive tackle Evin Ksiezarczyk and linebacker Jordan Williams.
Today, I’ll be discussing defensive end Austin Edwards out of Ferris State University. The 6’5, 280 lbs Edwards has a long list of accolades at the Division II level including the 2019 Gene Upshaw Award which is given to the best offensive or defensive lineman in NCAA Division II football. Some notable past recipients would be Baltimore Ravens defensive end Matt Judon and former Falcons’ offensive guard Brandon Fusco.
I was able to speak with Austin Edwards and ask him some questions about himself, his offseason, and making it to the NFL.
Who was your favorite player/team growing up?
Growing up my favorite team was the Pittsburgh Steelers. I liked them because of their elite defense and they were winning at the time. I used to love watching James Harrison and Troy Polamalu make hard hits and crazy plays.
Do you have any hidden talents or interests that most fans don’t know about?
I like to cook, and I’m pretty good I like to think. My brother is a chef and has been for about 9 years. I think when he first started, I got jealous that he was better than me at something so I tried to compete. I wouldn’t say that I’m close to his level yet, I got some work to do. Also, my mother is from Haiti and is a great cook as well, so growing up we were exposed to a lot of different cuisines. I also used to DJ at my college and used to scratch some turntables.
How would you summarize your time at Ferris State?
Ferris state was about brotherhood and family. The environment and culture that our coach has built is great, the fans were like my family and were always rooting for my success. That’s a big part of why we were so dominat at the Division II level. My favorite memory was in the 2018 season, my Junior year, in the semi finals vs Minnesota State University, Mankato. The game was a cold one, probably below 30 degrees and it was a close one also. I remember we just scored on offense and needed a stop on defense to close out the game. My coach was yelling “we need a big play, who wants to be a hero?” I still remember turning to my teammate and telling him to watch me, and I told him I was going to get a strip sack. I never really say stuff like that before a play, but it felt special. The center snapped the ball and I took off. He reached his arms out, I swiped them down and saw the quarterback alone in the pocket scanning the field. I came in and tomahawked his arm, and he lost the ball. we recovered it, and scored the next play to win the game. It felt like something from a movie.
With everything going on with COVID-19, did it impact your offseason and preparing for your NFL career?
It affected a lot for me personally. Coming from a small school, any exposure for me is critical and not being invited to the combine, I knew my pro day was going to be important. I started training hard and long as soon as the season ended and was ready for my pro day, but the virus had other plans. I was fortunate enough to have one recorded virtually for teams but was definitely upset that I wasn’t able to see or meet with any staff, which for me was important. I’m a man of God, so I believe that everything happens for a reason and that you should control what you can control and I was more than grateful to call myself an Atlanta Falcon after the draft. I feel how strong the brotherhood is here already and I’m ready to ball.
When did you personally know that you could play in the NFL?
It was always a dream of mine, but going to a smaller school, it definitely would seem harder. We had a few players that I played with over the years make it to the NFL and that was a lot of motivation for me. I wasn’t really thinking about “I need to make it to the NFL” but my mindset was simply to be the best me for my team so that we could win. During my Junior season, I realized that I definitely had a legit shot and had to just keep being the best me that I could for my team.
Have you discussed what your role would be with the Falcons’ staff?
No, not yet.
How familiar were you with the Falcons franchise prior to being drafted?
I was familiar, and ironically my college roommate was from Atlanta, so over the years he made sure I knew about them and the history.
Who do you study, model your game after?
I watch a lot of lineman, some similar to me and some not, but some I used to watch in college a lot was Aaron Donald, Grady Jarrett, Trey flowers and many others.
What do you want Falcons fans to know about you as a person, off of the football field?
I am a genuine person and I’m happy to be apart of such a great team and ready to meet and grow relationships with some of the fans. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. That’s how you will be remembered. I grew up from humble beginnings, my mother being an immigrant who came from Haiti instilled hard work into me at an early age, so I’m very humble and blessed to be here.
Watching some film on Austin Edwards, such as some highlights from his junior season above, he has an explosive first step and great motor. He definitely has the length and size to compete at the next level, so it’ll definitely be exciting to see him competing in training camp as many will naturally hold playing at the Division II level against him, and Edwards knows that.
In 2019, Edwards recorded 64 total tackles (17.5 for loss), 10.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for the Bulldogs. Although he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine as he mentioned, he did play in the 2020 East-West Shrine Game where he recorded a tackle and a pass deflection.
Overall, Edwards is a good kid and is as humble as they come. Like many of the rookies, he’s looking forward to this summer to prove himself an asset to this team, and hopefully, make the final roster.