Every week on the USA network, thousands of fans watch the popular TV show “Crossing Over with John Edward.” Edward attempts to do the unthinkable on his show: cross over into the next realm, bringing messages to loved ones left behind. Michigan sophomore Braylon Edwards has taken on a similar task this year. Most Big House frequenters know Edwards as the Wolverines’ go-to wide receiver, but he has now added track runner to his resume. While many people question whether John Edward really achieves any crossover, there is no question that Braylon Edwards has successfully achieved his.
A Detroit native, Edwards started running track and playing football at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School.
“Track benefited me in football, so I figured once I established myself in football here (at Michigan), the coaches would probably be all right with me running track,” Edwards said.
But Edwards has been following in familiar footsteps all along.
“My father played football (at Michigan) – he was a running back,” Edwards said. “He was the first guy to cross over (to track), and he was telling me how it benefited him, and that influenced me.”
Some other Michigan athletes who have crossed from football to track in the past are Tyrone Wheatley, Harold “Butch” Woolfolk, Stanley Edwards (Braylon’s father) and Joey Sarantos, who is currently on the team.
Edwards finds participating in both track and football a rewarding experience. He realizes that some of the skills he develops in track or football can be transferred to the other sport thereafter.
“When you run track and when you run with the right people like coach Ron (Warhurst) and his runners, they teach you form and the technique,” Edwards said. “They teach you how to utilize (these skills) to run faster on the football field. And since I high jump too, jumping teaches me how to time jumps in football.”
Edwards has definitely used his fast track moves on the football field. During a routine 40-yard sprint drill during one of the football team’s first spring practices, Edwards left everyone in the dust with a time of 4.41 seconds.
In addition, Edwards has the fastest indoor track times for the 60-meter dash and the 200-meter dash, with times of 6.88 and 21.81, respectively. He is one of the best Michigan high jumpers, with a personal record of 6′ 10-3/4″.
Michigan track coach Ron Warhurst already expects great things from Edwards when he joins the track team during their outdoor season (after Saturday’s spring football game).
“Braylon will definitely reach the seven-foot mark (in the high jump) or over, when he joins us in the outdoors,” Warhurst said.
Since football receives the bulk of publicity and praise among Michigan sports, it is a wonder why Edwards would participate and take on responsibilities in a less-famed sport such as track.
“Well, everybody knows football – we bring in all the money,” Edwards said. “But I think that a lot of people respect track as well because it’s so hard to go through and to do well at meets. In football, even if you (as an individual) do good, and you are like (former Michigan receiver) Dave Terrell, it’s a whole team thing – you have to win as a team. In track, you’re by yourself, and everybody is focused on only you when you’re running. They see only you, as opposed to just colors and numbers. “
While there are perks of doing both track and football, Edwards admits that managing two sports and two teams at once can be somewhat of a juggling act.
“(There’s a lot of) stress,” Edwards said. “You do two sports, and you do them everyday. Like I’m running and lifting and doing football everyday. It may put too much stress on your muscles and joints, like your hamstring and groin – and it causes you to be hurting more than maybe you would like to be.”
Often Edwards goes non-stop during the week. He tries to practice with the track team on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and with the football team Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Some days, he fits both in on top of his classes and homework.
“My parents always taught me good time management skills,” Edwards said. “In football, we always have early practice, so after that I go to class, then try to lift early (for football), then go to track practice after that. Everything is working out right now.”
Another hardship with doing two sports is the time spent with teammates and coaches on each team.
“I’m not around football as much (now),” Edwards said. “Not everyone knows me as well (anymore). The coaches can tend to lose favor, but the (football) coaches have seen that I’ve cut down my times and that I’m doing pretty well.”
Due to Edwards’ diligence in track, there have been times when he had less time for football because of track requirements. Still, football coach Lloyd Carr and other football teammates support him entirely.
“I think any time a guy has the determination and the stamina to play two sports, it can be a very positive thing,” Carr said. “For me, the most important issue is their academic load – if they can handle it. I think Braylon is a positive because he helps our track team. And he’s gotten faster.”
“Braylon running track definitely helps him perform better in football,” football teammate and roommate Lawrence Reid said. “I can see his improvements.”
Edwards loves the thrill of competition, gaining an extra step towards ultimate success over an opponent.
“He’s not afraid to compete and when you compete, you get better,” Carr said.
Edwards seems to get along with his new track teammates and coaches as well.
“When they saw that I actually cared about track and I was serious, they embraced (me),” said Edwards about his track teammates, who at first weren’t sure whether he would be up to the challenge of competing in two sports at once.
And now that Edwards has proven himself as someone who takes track just as seriously as football, many of the other track team members have found he’s a good role model to look up to.
“I definitely admire his talents and drive – I think a lot of the guys look up to what he’s doing,” sophomore teammate Nate Brannen said. “It’s not often you have a guy as good as him on the (football) field that still wants to achieve more by bringing his talents to the track. I don’t think I admire him more or less as either a runner or football player. He is extremely talented at both.”
And teammates don’t only admire Edwards’ high achievements in both areas, but also appreciate that he doesn’t have a “holier than thou” attitude since he is on the football team.
“He’s a good person – not arrogant, not stuck up,” Warhurst said. “He doesn’t bring football into it. I don’t hear him talking about the Ohio State football game or a great catch he made. If he started saying that, I’d ask him, ‘Hey, what about the ones you dropped?’ “
Warhurst believes that running track while playing football will bring positive outcomes for Edwards. He believes in Edwards’ sportsmanship skills and knows that the publicity from succeeding in two sports will not make Edwards a boastful athlete.
“Braylon knows how good (Nick) Willis is, he knows how good (Nate) Brannen is, he knows those guys are ‘Da man,’ ” Warhurst said. “He appreciates them as athletes.”
What is more impressive is that Edwards not only knows some of the top runners on this year’s team, but also is familiar with former Michigan runners. Warhurst witnessed this when giving Edwards a ride to a track meet earlier in the season. Former Michigan star miler Kevin Sullivan, who is currently ranked fifth in the world, happened to be in the car, and Warhurst introduced the two.
“I said, ‘Braylon, this is Kevin Sullivan, a former runner,’ and he said, ‘Are you the Kevin Sullivan?’ and Kevin said ‘Yeah, that’s me,’ and Braylon knew him – Sullivan wasn’t just some miler,” Warhurst said.
Many people may wonder if Edwards feels, after all the stress and hard work and practices, that joining a second Michigan team is worth it. Edwards would tell you wholeheartedly that it is indeed worth the effort. The skills used for the two sports are more similar than different.
“Coming from football to track, I use my speed.” Edwards said. “Lifting a lot of weights in football has helped me be one of the fastest guys on the (track) team. I’m (also) using how I run in track on the football field. It’s working out pretty nicely.”
Warhurst agrees with the new addition to his team and also says that he is glad Edwards is doing both sports.
“The field positions in football go hand in hand with track.” Warhurst said. “I don’t mind sharing him at all.”
In fact, Warhurst would like nothing more than to see more football players come out for the track team.
“Purdue has five football players (on their track team), and they’ve been first, second, third, fourth and fifth places sometimes in the 60-meter dash. It’s a tremendous advantage (to have them).”
With track being more of an individually-focused sport, it also gives Edwards a break from the large number of people and media involved with football.
“I think he likes being (at the track) because it’s a little more low key, and I think it’s a good break for him mentally,” Warhurst said. “You know, they’re gonna be after him for spring football. Reporters will be out there. It’s a nice break for him from football.”
Edwards has already been established as No. 1 on the football team (as seen on his jersey for the upcoming season), and he’s on his way to doing the same in track.
Now that Edwards is representing Michigan on both the track and in teh field, fans can expect this crossover to give John Edward a run – literally – for his money.