This is the third post in my series, “Where Are They Now?” featuring Notre Dame athletic greats and showcasing how their lives have changed since leaving South Bend. This week I interview former Notre Dame fullback Marc Edwards.
Marc Edwards was born in Norwood, Ohio on Nov. 17, 1974. He was named Ohio’s Mr. Football in 1992 as the state’s top football player. He went on to play fullback for the University of Notre Dame from 1993-1997. His NFL career consisted of playing for five NFL teams including the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears. During his time with the Patriots, he won a Super Bowl in 2002. He is now married and has four children ages 13, 11, 8 and 2.
Q: What made you want to go to Notre Dame as opposed to Ohio State or another major university?
A: “Well that is kind of funny, actually! During the late 1980’s I hated Notre Dame. When Notre Dame was in the run for the 1988 national championship I was not a Notre Dame fan at all. I was rooting for Miami to beat Notre Dame. But by the time I got into high school, I started to change my mind. I knew that I would get a great education from Notre Dame. I knew that I would graduate, and would have skills to fall back on if I did not end up playing football. I knew that the fullback position was a key position in the Notre Dame offense. Had I gone to Ohio State, I would have been nothing more than a blocking mule for Eddie George. I knew that Notre Dame was always in the hunt for a national title. Notre Dame was only four hours from home, which also was a plus. So when Notre Dame started to recruit me and show interest in me, it really was a no-brainer. What they had to offer me truly was the entire package.”
“After I had committed to Notre Dame, I found a folder from one of my high school classes that I had written “Notre Dame Sucks” on. But with some maturity under my belt and the realization of what the long-term benefits of attending Notre Dame were, my feelings had changed.”
Q: What was your best Notre Dame football memory?
A: “The Notre Dame-USC game from my Junior year (1995). At that point, we had beaten USC for 10 straight years. In the 11th year we tied them, and here we were the underdogs of this meeting. It was Keyshawn Johnson’s senior year, USC was undefeated going into the game and we were coming in 3-2. It was being hyped that this was the year that USC was going to come in to our house and beat us. And what happened? We came out and put a major beating on them. Physically, mentally, we beat them in all aspects of the game. I probably had the best game of my life. I ran like crazy that game, scored three touchdowns, threw for a two-point pass and ran for a two-point conversion and ended up being carried off the field. (The only other player to be carried off the field was Rudy!) I was the NBC Player of the Game. It was a surreal experience. We beat USC 38-10. It was the first time I was an integral part of a big time victory as a starter. My freshman year I was a part of the Florida State game, but I was not really a key part of that (one).”
“My second-best football memory was probably the trip to Dublin, Ireland to play Navy my senior year. The game that year was kind of a subplot, as back then Navy’s football team was not all that good. It was amazing to get to experience Dublin. Coach Holtz had a no drinking policy, but just this once he let us go out and have one Guinness at a local pub, which of course turned into more than “just one.” It was an amazing opportunity for us.”
Q: What do you think about the disappearance of the fullback position at Notre Dame?
A: “The sad part is that it has not just disappeared at Notre Dame, but it’s disappeared from football in general. The fullback position right now is a dying breed, both in college and in the pros. Football is cyclical to a certain degree. New offenses come along every so often because the defenses have figured out the old offenses. Eventually they have to go back to the bread and butter plays.”
“I was at Notre Dame a few years ago when Ron Powlus was the quarterbacks coach, and was telling Ron that I’m not sure if today, in today’s game, that I would be a Division I athlete. Fullbacks are just not used any more. Using a fullback may not be as exciting as throwing the ball, but when you have to knock it in from one yard line, having an elite fullback is a definitely bonus.”
“Even when the use of the fullback position was prevalent, not every team used them. It will probably never return like that again, but who knows.”
Q: How do you remember the NFL Draft?
A: “If I had draft day to do over, I probably would have played golf all day and not obsessed over it. I thought I would go either mid-second round or mid-third round. We had a draft day party at a local restaurant in Cincinnati. The draft party started at noon, which is when the draft coverage started on ESPN. They showed the first three rounds on Day 1, as each team got 15 minutes to make each pick. I was the 55th pick on Day 1 of the draft and I didn’t get picked until 8:30pm. People at the party kept asking me when I thought I was going to get picked, and I kept telling them, ‘I have no idea!!’ Cell phones were just starting to be prevalent at that time, and a few people started to call me on my cell phone and I kept telling them, ‘quit calling me I need to keep this line open!’”
“When I finally got drafted, the TV coverage had moved from ESPN to ESPN2, and the restaurant that we were at only had ESPN. The main draft on ESPN went from noon to 7:30pm, and then it switched over to ESPN2. At this point, the owner of the restaurant is frantically calling the cable company and trying to get them to activate ESPN2, but they were not able to do that before I got the call.”
“So I finally got a phone call on the restaurant’s phone. They called me over and I picked up the phone. All anyone heard me say was, ‘yes sir, great news, thank you very much;’ and then I hung up. At this point no one knew what team I was going to. I had three boxes of hats. I had to dig through all three before I finally found the hat that I’m looking for in the third box. I paused for a second, picked it up and put it on (San Francisco 49ers), and the whole place when nuts. I still have never seen the footage of my name being called. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I was the designated driver that night for my friends to celebrate. Then I went home, packed, and caught a 6:00am flight the next morning. I finally caught a few hours of sleep on the plane.”
Q: What were the best and worst parts about playing in the NFL?
A: “The best thing is that you are still competing and you are still playing the game. Sundays are great, paydays are great, but it is a job. It’s much different from playing during your college years at a place like Notre Dame. There is not the camaraderie that you had in college. I keep in touch with eight or 10 guys that I played with in college. I have also met guys from different generations of Notre Dame teams, some from the 1988 championship team and some who played after me, who I have since become friends with.
When you get done playing in the NFL, it is a business, and you don’t necessarily keep in touch with anyone that you played with. It is a very cutthroat industry. They are always looking for someone bigger, better and cheaper than you. The older you get, the more you see and realize that. You are a commodity and you are not a brother. When I go back to Notre Dame, I am always welcomed with open arms and I have an instant connection with anyone who is a Notre Dame alum, regardless of whether or not they played football. The NFL is not a family. Once you are done, they are done with you. It’s a different mentality when you reach that level, not the same warm feeling as at Notre Dame.”
Q: What is your best NFL memory and high point in your pro career?
A: “The high point of my NFL career has got to be winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots. It was a storybook season for sure. The year before the Patriots went 5-11. They gave up two first-round draft picks and hired Bill Belichick, and even before they recruited me as a free agent I thought they were crazy. When New England started to show some interest in me, they ended up signing me and nine other free agents. None of us were big name players, but we all had several years of experience under our belt. This was Belichick’s strategy to build a winning team. Drew Bledsoe was the team’s franchise guy, and the season before quarterback Tom Brady was the fourth-string guy. The only reason he was still on the team was because New England, unlike most other teams, kept four quarterbacks. After Brady’s performance during the 2001 summer camp, he was moved up to second string.”
“After the first game of the season, 9/11 happened, and then there were no games the following week. Our first game after 9/11 was against the New York Jets, which was a very emotional game. We lost that game, and Mo Lewis hit Bledsoe during that game, which caused him to be out for the rest of the season. Tom Brady came in with the team already 0-2, and we really thought we were in big trouble. We faced Indianapolis the next week and the whole team rallied together and we beat the Colts. It seemed more like a college atmosphere than a NFL atmosphere, and we played as a team, not as a bunch of guys relying on our franchise quarterback to bring home the win.”
“We lost to Miami next week. We were 1-3 at that point and started fighting back. We got to 5-5 after a loss to the St. Louis (Greatest Show On Turf) Ram. After that game, we started on a magical run. We went on to win the division, had the number two seed going into the playoffs, beat the Raiders in the “snow bowl” game, and went into Pittsburgh to win the AFC Championship game. We traveled to the Superdome in New Orleans to face the Rams in the Super Bowl, and beat St. Louis on a last second Adam Vinatieri kick. It was quite a season. A good looking kid from Michigan takes over as quarterback and ends up taking the team to the Super Bowl.”
“That year was unlike any other year that played in the NFL. There was camaraderie on that team that I never saw on any other NFL team. After practice was over we would stick around the locker room and play Dominos and Backgammon. About twelve or so of us would hang out every Thursday night at this local BBQ joint. Then on Friday nights we would all go out to dinner and have some drinks and relax. We threw our own team Christmas party. The chemistry of that team really felt like a family.”
Q: Did you ever have any interest in coaching or broadcasting?
A: “I thought about coaching a little bit, but at that point I already had three daughters, and they were all getting involved in soccer. When you are a coach there is no time off. You have to make a decision between being a full-time coach and being a family man. Being a good coach is more than a 9-to-5 job, it’s a 24/7 job and your family takes second place. There is no job security. You end up moving every few years. I decided to veer away from that and put my kids and family first.”
“I considered broadcasting as well, but it is such a competitive industry. Every player who is retiring is trying to get into broadcasting, and once again the time away from the family is challenging. Your weekends are gone. It really is a tough business to get into and I never really attempted to break in. It would have been fun, but it would have been a big sacrifice.”
Q: Where did life take you after the NFL?
A: “Like many guys who move on from the NFL, I was a little bit lost. Towards the end of my NFL career, I had some ownership in an insurance company. After I retired from the NFL, I went and got my insurance license and my series seven, and tried to get involved in the insurance business, and found out that it made me bored out of my mind. As a NFL player, you rarely were told no. All of the sudden I am making insurance sales calls, my phone calls were not being returned and people were telling me no.”
“In 2007-2008 when the market was crashing, it was a very bad time for me. I was trying to break into the insurance business and one of the other challenges I faced was that I was 31 years old with an established family, and all of my peers in the insurance industry already had 10 years under their belt. I felt like a college graduate just trying to learn a new career. At this point I realized I need to try to find something enjoyable and challenging all at the same time. Insurance was not it.”
“Through a Notre Dame connection, I was introduced to the forklift business, which really caught my eye. It was something that I could not only get into the technical side of, but could also get my hands dirty. I ended up buying into the company, called Speedshield Fleet Solutions, and became a partner. What the software does is allow the end user to monitor their entire fleet online. It allows them to pick and choose who has access to each piece of equipment. It alerts them to speeding, accidents, keep track of OSHA regulations, it can even shut the fork lift off. It is a great way for a company to monitor safety & product efficiency. It was the perfect opportunity for me. I can get my hands dirty, I am out in the field rewiring forklifts, and I am also in the office teaching people how to install the software and operate it. I found something that was challenging to me both mentally and physically. It really was the best of all worlds.”
Q: What is your favorite Lou Holtz memory?
A: “There are so many of them! The thing about Coach Holtz is that his philosophy was to put all the pressure on you during practice so that game time was easy. I used to dread going to practice as a freshman because I knew he was going to get on me about something. If I took a crossover step instead of a lead step, he was running down the field yelling and screaming at me. The offensive and defensive squads practiced on different fields. And then if you messed up, they sent you down to the scout team’s field to get better and then maybe if you were lucky you could come back and practice with the main squad. The worst part about being sent down to the scout team’s field is that everybody can see you heading down there, and they all knew you had screwed up. It was so embarrassing. But come game time, he rarely yelled at all. The older you got, the less he got on you. You had already been through the battles and proved yourself. He didn’t have to break you down any more. But he’d still chew you up from time to time to let you know he was the boss.”
“The things he said were funny as hell as long as he was not yelling at you! We were getting ready to play Air Force and Holtz was yelling at one of the players. He’s yelling at the guy and says, ‘You’re so dumb, you don’t even know what state you are in. What state are you in?’ And the guy says, ‘Indiana?’ ‘No, your ass is in the state of confusion.’”
I’d like to give a big thank you to Marc Edwards for spending some time with me, walking us down memory lane, and telling us where his Notre Dame education took him in life! Next week I will talk to wide receiver, Adrian Jarrell.