Braylon Edwards has always seen himself as a star. This is one reason he has been so successful in football, and it is probably also the reason he has not been successful enough. It is why you would be drawn to him if you met him, and also why you probably don't like him right now.
And it is the fact that Edwards must face today, on one of the worst days of his life. Edwards was arrested for driving under the influence early Tuesday morning. A man is innocent until proven guilty, of course, but lets face it: there are seldom misunderstandings with DUI arrests.
It is time for Edwards to re-evaluate everything in life. It is time for him to stop seeing himself as a star and start acting like he wants to really be one. He can still be the man I think he can be, instead of what the country thinks he is. But frankly, he doesn't have as much time as he thinks. He is 27 years old. Unlike most professions, pro football does not allow you to reinvent yourself at 35.
If Edwards doesn't change his ways soon, his legacy will be that of a knucklehead. Hey, some people on this planet are knuckleheads. But Edwards is bright and gifted and does not have to be one of them.
Everything about this arrest says Edwards' priorities are out of whack. According to reports, Edwards was pulled over because his windows were over-tinted. (Why anybody has a car with illegally tinted windows, I will never understand. You might as well call the cops on yourself.) He allegedly blew a .16 on a Breathalyzer, which is not just illegal but dangerously high, and utterly stupid. Edwards was drinking with fellow receiver Donte Stallworth last year, hours before Stallworth drove drunk and killed a man. If anybody should have been consciously aware of the risks of driving drunk, it is Edwards.
And he was arrested at 5:15 a.m. Drunk, high or stone-cold sober, NFL players should not be out until 5 a.m. during the season. That is no way to take care of your body. Players are usually motivated by either money or winning, and Edwards should be motivated by both right now. He is playing for a potential Super Bowl team and he will be a free agent after the season.
This arrest followed a weekend when Edwards caught a touchdown pass against the Patriots and immediately drew a taunting penalty, which pretty much sums up Edwards' NFL career. He has a habit of getting in the way of his own highlights.
Like a lot of athletes -- and more than most, to be honest -- Edwards sometimes confuses the fruits of success with actual success. I think this is one reason he has struggled with dropped passes since his college days -- on some level, he thinks about the touchdown before the catch.
Note that I did not say he has always seen himself as a great football player, though that may be true. What matters more is that he has always seen himself as a star, which is something else entirely. When Edwards said he fit in with the Jets better than the Browns because of his "New York essence," I don't think he meant it as a shot at Cleveland. New York is for the biggest, brightest stars. This is how Edwards sees himself, and he always has.
I've known Edwards since his freshman year at Michigan and I'm going to be in the minority among media folks when I say this, but I'll say it anyway: Edwards is not a jerk. He gives to charitable causes, he loves kids, and he is not one of those guys who treats people like garbage just because he can.
Unfortunately, whether Edwards realizes it or not, it is getting harder and harder for him to shake his image. Nobody wants to hear about his foundation or his often good intentions. In a sports world that is too often split neatly into good guys and bad guys, the perception is that Edwards is a bad guy.
Edwards comes from a family that is not easily defined. His parents got divorced when he was a kid, but they have always made an exceptional effort to get along, to the point where I once heard Braylon's father, Stan, tell a roomful of Detroit elementary school kids that Braylon's mother's husband was not a stepfather, but Braylon's "other dad." Stan, a former NFL running back, is a hard-driving but loving father. There is no doubt Stan wanted Braylon to be a football star, but I don't think this was for reflected glory for Stan. He just saw that Braylon had a chance to be a star, and he wanted him to be the best that he could be.
And Braylon always saw himself that way, too. He lobbied for the No. 1 jersey at Michigan, even after he was assigned No. 80 early in his career. He has since endowed that jersey number, but there are conditions, and one of them is this: no freshman can wear No. 1. It is a star's jersey.
Tuesday morning, while Edwards was apparently still in jail, somebody tweeted from Edwards' official Twitter account. Presumably, the ghost-tweeter was unaware the receiver had been arrested. The tweet was later deleted, but it was oddly fitting. There is a gap between the public persona that Braylon Edwards wants to create and the reality of his career. It's time for him to let go of the persona and worry about the reality.