HOUSTON (AP) Bernard Edwards spent the past 16 years as an Air Force surgical operations manager, leading and training more than 300 medics and caregivers and aiding surgeons serving in the military.
The retired technical sergeant is on Radio Row during Super Bowl week getting a chance to host a one-hour talk show on SiriusXM's special channel dedicated to the NFL championship game.
''I am launching a career in public speaking, which encompasses all different forms of media,'' Edwards said as he prepared for his Wednesday program on Super Bowl LI Radio, SiriusXM 134.
''In broadcasting there are so many lanes and various forms of social media, TV and radio and podcasts. I am primarily interested in sports when it comes to broadcasting. For public speaking, I like to do keynotes on leadership, diversity, personal development, business.
''I've never been on radio on this level, though I have been on (local) public radio. I also did a channel for veterans and those on active duty and did some various interviews on AFN (Armed Force Network).''
Edwards, 36, grew up in Europe in a military family and lettered in football, basketball, and track at Bitburg American High School.
''I was blessed to make the All-Europe teams and even played basketball for a local German team for one season instead of my high school, so that I could experience wrestling for my high school. You couldn't play two sports for the school in one season,'' he explains.
''While serving in the Air Force, I played defensive back for the Armed Services Football Team out of Walter Reed (Military Medical Center) in Maryland for two years.''
He also took up mixed martial arts and trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and muay thai, competing in the Army Combatives tournaments. Edwards has traveled to Thailand and Bali to train in MMA.
Edwards has strong interest in broadcasting now that he is out of the armed services. So for an hour Wednesday, FedEx, the USO and SiriusXM are giving him the opportunity to talk sports - to America.
He'll get off to a good start with such guests as Drew Brees, Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson for his debut.
''That's even more awesome,'' he said. ''Just to get to speak to one of those is a great opportunity. To speak to all three, awesome. I'm excited they are taking the opportunity to talk to a veteran and honored to represent my fellow Americans in uniform.
''I will let it flow a lot. But I have do have some questions I think will be interesting to them related to veterans and football.''
He plans to ask the three star players about transitions. With Brees being closer to the end of his career than the youngsters Bell and Johnson, Edwards will ask the Saints quarterback about similarities between veterans coming out of the military to take on a completely new life, and players who must do the same at some point.
''What are they doing as players to prepare, and what struggles they have seen from more senior players who retired and returned to what you would call a more normal life,'' said Edwards, who retired from the Air Force in 2014. ''For a pro athlete it cannot be easy to go back to a normal life.''
FedEx and the USO have a role in that transition, Edwards explained. FedEx sponsors weekly and annual NFL awards, and the company will donate $50,000 to the USO in the names of the winners of the FedEx Air & Ground Players of the Year, $100,000 in total. FedEx also donated $2,000 for its weekly award winners.
Those donations will be used to support USO programs that keep service members connected to family, home and country as they transition from military to civilian life.
Edwards hopes his transition leads to more involvement in broadcasting and public speaking.
One thing he's pretty sure of: He won't be nervous hosting a program heard by millions on satellite radio, nor while interviewing the likes of Brees, Bell and Johnson.
''I have heard it said that more humans fear public speaking than they do death,'' he said. ''I take my role in the military as having changed that for me.''
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