Humbled Herm

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“This is a great community, and that will be the All Sports Association’s legacy. I’m just honored to be a part of that.”


OKALOOSA ISLAND — For Herm Edwards, joining a fraternity of Nick Saban, Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno and Lou Holtz wasn’t the humbling part of being tabbed as the keynote speaker for Friday night’s All Sports Association Banquet.

After all, Edwards is a brand in and of himself.

He played cornerback for 10 seasons (1977–1986) with the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons, amassing 33 interceptions and becoming synonymous as the player who recovered a fumble by New York Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik in the “Miracle at the Meadowlands.”

He helmed a combined five playoff teams for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, the former he took to the AFC Divisional round twice.

He gave perhaps the greatest sound bite in a postgame interview ever: “You play to win the game.” That segued into a lauded career as an ESPN analyst, where he became known for his “Herminisms.”

And now he’s set to begin a new chapter as the head coach at Arizona State University.

Yet, for all of his name recognition and for all of his accomplishments, Edwards is humbled by the All Sports Association’s footprint on the Emerald Coast.

Generous with their philanthropy, open with their wallets and the North Star of athletic achievement in the area with the many awards they dole out, Edwards sees the ASA as perfectly embodying “community.”

“When you give from the heart, and that’s what they’ve done, the community benefits,” Edwards said on stage at the 49th annual All Sports Association Banquet at the Emerald Coast Convention Center. “For 49 years, they’ve supported youth and sports, and you hope that impact and love continues through every generation.

“This is a great community, and that will be the All Sports Association’s legacy. I’m just honored to be a part of that.”

The legacy includes writing big checks to area charities and organizations. This year the ASA has outdone itself with $35,000 payouts individually to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast, the Okaloosa County chapter of Special Olympics, the Eleanor J. Johnson Youth Center and the Okaloosa/Walton County Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The $140,000 total topped last year’s $120,000.

Of course the way the ASA raises money is through its involvement and attention to the area sports scene. Sports, Edwards said, is the ultimate uniter.

“I think how sports is unique in the sense that it bring the masses together for one cause and one cause only,” Edwards said. “I think sometimes when you look at it, sports is the window where there’s an equal playing field. It’s not biased. It doesn’t have any religious preference, economical preference. It’s just folks coming together for a common cause, to do something for the team to be successful.

“I think sometimes in life we don’t huddle up enough. This community huddles together.”

It certainly did Friday night, when about 1,400 people packed the Convention Center.

Edwards acknowledged that wasn’t because of him. Nor was that the case when Saban or Joe Pa or Holtz graced the stage.

When it comes to the ASA keynote speaker, there are no egos. Just great athletic role models.

“I’m no different than any college coach,” Edwards said. “If they’ve grown as men under my watch, I’ve done my job. I want them to graduate, to be a student-athlete. If you can give them wisdom, give them ability to compete, give them that ability to invest in themselves, you’ve done your job.”

As for Edwards’ next destination in the bright spotlight of the Pac-12, he said he couldn’t stay away from the sidelines any longer.

“You miss being on the grass. You miss being around a common goal. When you’ve done it your whole life, you miss it,” Edwards said. “You have this energy, this mindset of always being around a huddle, of being around guys trying to build something.”

And that’s what the ASA is. Only it’s already built something transcendent.

Now begins the planning for next year — the milestone 50th.

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