For a guy who has worn a lot of hats in his career, former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anthony Edwards is looking to add another to his collection.
Edwards served in a number of roles for the Cardinals after joining the organization in 1991 as a player, including as team chaplain. But he is now running for city council in his hometown of Casa Grande, Arizona, which is also where he serves as the pastor at Greater Evangelist Temple Church of God in Christ, the church he grew up in and where his dad was once the pastor for 46 years.
“I’m spread out a lot, but I love it,” Edwards said years ago. “If you think about it, all of what I do is ministry in some form or another.'”
Edwards left the Cardinals in May 2021, but he left his mark on the organization over the 23 years he was involved in the front office. After retiring as a player in 1998, he served as the senior director of player engagement, directed the team’s training camp, handled the travel advance duties, and served as the team chaplain on top of all of it.
Now, he’s finding a calling in civic government.
“One of the first reasons why I’ve decided to run for council is I now have the time,” Edwards told the Casa Grande Dispatch. “I want to put something back into the community. I was able to do so serving on the board (Casa Grande Union High School District) for several years. I was pushing for students to be first and things like that.”
It’s a chance for Edwards to serve the community that raised him, though he didn’t think he’d end up there as a pro. He was originally signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of New Mexico Highlands University. When head coach Buddy Ryan was fired, Edwards was released.
Thinking his NFL career might be done, he began working at a baby food manufacturer when he got a call from Ted Plumb, his old offensive coordinator in Philadelphia who had recently taken a job with the Cardinals. Edwards couldn’t pass up the chance to return back to Arizona, and he remained involved with the organization all the way through May 2021.
It was his time in the front office that was arguably the most impactful.
All in all, he served in the player development and engagement role for 23 years, then 17 years as training camp director, 17 years as the travel advance coordinator, and 14 years as team chaplain. His time spent ministering was impactful to countless players, as former running David Johnson said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2017.
Edwards’ experience in the NFL will help him in his pursuit of public office, he said, as it taught him valuable life lessons about how to treat others.
“I think No. 1, character is key. It’s one thing I talk about a lot,” Edwards told the Casa Grande Dispatch. “I’d see it in the young men who came to our football team at Arizona. I told them when they arrived that their gifts and talents would take them many places in life, but character will sustain you. It is how we carry ourselves though life.”
Edwards appeared on “The Gate” podcast with Pastor Eric Kluth in June 2021 and he shared a story where his character was strengthened and his faith in God was solidified. It’s a story that has shaped who he is even today.
Though he wanted to attend Arizona State University, he wasn’t offered the scholarships he needed to afford going there. He instead went to New Mexico Highlands University, where he broke a number of records as a wide receiver.
He was invited to attend the 1989 Blue-Gray Football Classic, an All-Star event for college seniors (which ended in 2001), and in his excitement for being selected, he decided to go out that night to celebrate with drinks. Around 2 a.m. the following morning, he got in a car accident where he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and was thrown to the passenger side of the vehicle.
“That hurt my shot at going to the Blue-Grey All-Star Game,” he said. “That’s what hurt me, because they did not get a chance to see me at the Blue-Grey All-Star Game. But that was my fault. I chose that night to do something that I was taught not to do.”
He continued the story, describing how his friend rescued him from the car and got him to the hospital. The lieutenant on duty that night who responded to the accident was from Casa Grande and knew Edwards.
He got a citation for the accident, but overall was given far more grace than he expected, given the circumstances, he said. The case was ultimately thrown out once it got to court.
“Once we were walking out, I looked up and I said, ‘I know there’s a God somewhere,'” he said.
It took until July 1989 before he finally got the call from the Eagles that they wanted to sign him. Former NFL coach Rex Ryan, the brother of Buddy Ryan, had recently taken an assistant coaching job at New Mexico Highlands. Although he never directly coached Edwards, he called his brother to vouch for him.
“We know that God was behind everything,” Edwards said on the podcast. “We know God was behind me going to Las Vegas, New Mexico, to that small school.”
All of that allowed Edwards to fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL and being able to buy a house for his parents, something he said was always a goal of his. He wanted to give back to them for all they had done for him growing up.
“We know, and [my mother] knows, that it was nothing but the grace of God working behind the scenes on my behalf,” he said on the podcast.
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