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Life of a Saint: Brad Edelman

Edelman dives into his early formative years, his NFL career and how the arts continue to play a major role in his life.

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

“It’s really just the manifestation of a vision.”

Former Saints guard, Brad Edelman, explained the similarities between two of his loves: the arts and football. Being drafted to New Orleans was much more than a fit on paper. It would prove to be a breeding ground of greatness, on and off the field.

Life of a Saint: Brad Edelman

“I was adopted at birth. My folks had come from St. Louis, Missouri to pick me up at a hospital in Florida and then took me back to St. Louis. I then grew up in the St. Louis area and spent most of my life there before college.”

Edelman would end up meeting his birth mother later in life but was sure to mention that doing so was more a curiosity than a burning desire. “I had such a great childhood and loving parents. There wasn’t a lot of incentive to find out.”

Reflecting on the past, Edelman cited memories of singing to his mother’s records in his childhood. Edelman then began to sing a little of the Roger Miller classic, “King of the Road.” Obviously, it’s a special and lasting memory.

Brad Edelman stares down Charger defense
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Parkway North to Missouri

His high school years at Creve Coeur Parkway North were “formative in many ways.” Edelman shared, “I was able to participate in a number of things that stimulated me, and I became passionate about. Mainly sports, for one, basketball, football and track. Then I had consistent involvement in music, both in singing and playing.”

Edelman’s focus on education, the arts and sports ultimately paid dividends. After visiting five different colleges and considering several others, Edelman decided on the University of Missouri.

“The long and short is that Missouri had a new coaching staff. They had a great deal of talent that had been handed down from the previous coaching staff to Warren Powers, who was the coach. They put on a fairly impressive recruiting campaign and I felt that it was close enough to home, but far enough that I could have my own identity and a life with some distance. I could always get back to see my family. And I knew I was going to a school where I could get a good education in addition to having a chance of being very competitive in the Big Eight.”

The Road to the NFL

Heading into Missou, Edelman would be the first to tell you that the NFL didn’t seem like a realistic possibility. While much of his time was spent continuing to work on his craft on the field, the more sensible expectation was a future career in marketing, advertising or public relations.

Edelman’s opinion would change by his junior year.

The Tigers’ four straight winning seasons, and four corresponding bowl appearances, brought a lot of attention to Brad Edelman. Edelman would find himself All-Big Eight honors in 1980 and would become team captain in 1981. His skills and leadership also afforded him the opportunity to play in both the Hula Bowl and Olympia Gold Bowl all star games. Years after he left Missouri, he would also be elected to the Missouri All-Century Team.

But for the relatively introverted Edelman, pursuing a career in the NFL was a somewhat tough choice. Edelman offered, “I was a very private person. I realized very early on. My father said, ‘Look. If you’re gonna consider this opportunity, you can do one of two things: you can quit and walk away from it because you don’t like the invasion of privacy, or you can give it a shot and see how it goes.’ I erred on the side of, ‘If I don’t take this opportunity, I may never get it again.’ But it was not like pulling teeth to get me to do it. I don’t mean imply that at all.”

A Match Made in Heaven

“It was still surreal when they announced that Bum Phillips and the New Orleans Saints were choosing me. It was quite a release of joy and excitement for the opportunity.”

For Brad Edelman, the artist, the marriage to New Orleans fit like a glove. For him to end up in a city that has been labeled, ‘The Birthplace of Jazz’ and ‘Hollywood South’ certainly feels like there was a higher power at work. The heartbeat and soul of the city would become so infectious that Edelman would eventually make New Orleans his permanent home.

The former center was headed to a Saints team with a well-entrenched and future Saints Hall of Fame center in John Hill. Bum Phillips would install Edelman at guard, a position he would then hold for his entire NFL career. Edelman did mention that he did try his hand at tackle, jesting, “They did try me at tackle for a little while, just to give me a sense of how difficult it was. ‘We’ll let you move back inside now.’”

New Orleans Saints v New York Giants Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Edelman Settles in New Orleans

It wouldn’t take long for Edelman to get comfortable in his new surroundings. The former Missou alum cited a few people that helped his transition in the locker room.

“I ended up hanging with some of my offensive line buddies like Louis Oubre. Also, I hung out with Dave Waymer a lot during my rookie year. I enjoyed their company. We were all in our early 20’s and just having fun playing football. I’ll tell you; Bum was a great inspiration to me. Not only for haven chosen me to play on his squad, but someone who was interested in and shared his perspective on the individual, the person behind the helmet. He’d be interested in what you’re doing with your life and say how thankful we should be for having the opportunity to do what we’re doing as professional ballplayers. He also made me realize sometimes that I was a little overzealous in my training and maybe, I needed to pull it back some.”

Edelman then recalled the times he would be walking down Bourbon Street, immersed in laughter and live music.

The Bum Years

The first few years Edelman was in the NFL, he saw the Saints improve and compete. “I think we had an abundance of really good players. We had a good combination of players that could play in Bum’s offense early on. We had a solid defense. It was a really good defensive four. Our offense was very simple. Bum’s philosophy was very simple back then.”

But as the years went by and the talent started to change, that simple philosophy didn’t hold up in Bum’s later years. Edelman continued, “That was one of the reasons that the NFL sort of passed us by, in terms of philosophy, different fronts, defensive fronts and more complicated pass coverages, etc. We were very simple, and we had the horses; at least my first couple of years. On offensive line, we had guys that could pound it out. We were able to complete with most teams running the football. We were driving it over most NFL defenses successfully many games out of the season. When we did not either have the backs or no longer had the horses to play that kind of game, the line them up and knock them down game, as opposed to the intricacies of the offensive packages of today, we weren’t as successful.”

Edelman remembered those final games of Bum Phillips tenure in New Orleans, sharing, “I think we saw it coming. If I recall correctly, I remember seeing Bum reading books about life after retirement. He was being more philosophical about his career at that point in time. I can’t remember the circumstances that surrounded it or who knew what when, But I don’t think it was a surprise. He had had a good, long run and I think he was well loved. It was just his time.”

The Mora Years

A relatively new owner, new administration and a host of new talent had the 1987 Saints looking nearly unrecognizable from just a year prior. No change, however, would impact the identity of the 1987 Saints more than the hiring of Head Coach, Jim Mora.

Edelman recalled, “It was day and night in many respects. I respect Jim. He and Jim Finks and Tom Benson are the reasons that the franchise ultimately turned around. In the Mora years, we saw some success. He had a different philosophy than Bum. His philosophy was to get the most out of his players. He was, for the most part, able to do that. He built a team that was not going to burden itself with so many mistakes that they didn’t give themselves an opportunity to win. So, we did not beat ourselves, and we had one of the most awesome defenses in the NFL.”

The overhaul paid off. And with the unprecedented success in the Big Easy came an overdue accolade for Edelman.

Edelman would earn Pro Bowl honors in 1987. He reflected on the recognition, offering, “First of all, it was just an exciting honor. I don’t know that it was, what I would consider, my best season as a player. But it is the season where our team accumulated the most wins and had a lot more visibility. I think that typically plays into it to some degree. I was thankful for the honor.”

Edelman continued, “What a great game. I was playing next to a gentleman I had known from years past, Luis Sharpe, who ended up playing offensive tackle for the St. Louis Cardinals. We ended up playing side-by-side that game against Howie Long and Bruce Smith. We tussled a little bit with those guys. The intensity is not the same in a Pro Bowl game as it is in the regular season; more so back then as it is today even. It was just a load of fun. I was very thankful to have that experience at least once in my career.”

Edelman has also achieved induction in the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the Parkway Alumni Association Hall of Fame.

A Life Adjustment

After the 1989 season, Edelman decided to end his football playing career. The decision didn’t come as a result of losing his love or passion for the game.

“It was an accumulation of injuries. I certainly would have liked to have played longer if I had been physically capable of doing it. It just wasn’t in the cards. I had to really weigh out what was more important; trying to play again or walking for the rest of my life. I erred on the side of caution. It turns out to be a good choice, but I certainly would have liked to have extended my career. But I think I left it all out on the field. Not to say every game was stellar, but I feel when I walked away that I had done what I could with the time given to me. And I was walking away instead of wheeling away.”

The transition from his playing days was admittedly tough for Edelman. While he did have a host of opportunities and obligations, Edelman shared that it was the “rhythm” of his life that was hardest to adjust.

“Literally and figuratively, the rhythm began in July in training camp, then regular season and, if lucky, post-season. The off-season had training routines. That same cycle was nine years for me professionally and four years in college and in high school. So, you’re on that same life cycle, it takes time.”

Edelman cited that it took him years to adjust and grow into the next chapter of his life.

The Right Fit

“That’s an interesting question. It’s something I think about, looking back at my life. What I’ve found is that I seem to need different influences to continue to feel creative and continue to have my juices flowing.”

Edelman has stayed busy, trying his hand in front of the camera as a football analyst, as well as behind the camera as a photographer. He has also tried his hand in public speaking, acting, singing and sculpting among other things. Finding the right fit at any point in his life has been a union of opportunity and passion.

Looking back at his laundry list of accomplishments, Edelman contemplated the path he has taken.

“Often, I think if I could have just focused all the energy that I’ve put into all these different directions into one, channeled it into one, where would that have led? How deep and rich would I be in that direction? Is that important? Or is it more important to experience all the different things? I don’t know.”

The uncertainty of what the future holds is what keeps him intrigued and engaged. For Edelman, it was and is all part of the manifestation of his vision.

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