BigBlue's post about Edgerrin's HOF credentials got me thinking, not so much about whether or not he'll make it or not, because I'm really bad at guessing who is and isn't Hall-worthy (where is Ray Guy???), but more about my memories of Edge when he was Indy. The good ol' days when he was tearing it up with Peyton and Marvin, before the ACL injury robbed him of his explosiveness. He was still able to be an effective running back after the injury, but he wasn't the same guy that he was before. He may have lost the raw speed that made him such a freak in his early years, but it gave him a chance to display his versatility, changing from an explosive runner that was a receiving threat out of the backfield to a pounder that wore down defenses and became the best pass blocking back in the NFL.
I could easily devote an entire post to this transformation, and I just might at some point down the road, but I want to use this post to focus on the early Edgerrin. The first thing that comes to mind when people talk about the early years with Edge would probably be how he led the league in rushing in both of his first two years with the Colts. What a lot of people forget is that he was probably the most scrutinized pick of the Polian era. Bill had just shipped out Marshall Faulk to the Rams for two draft picks, or about a third of the picks it took for the Saints to move up to get Ricky Williams, who Polian passed on when he drafted James. Of course, if James had fallen to the Saints, Mike Ditka wouldn't have taken him because his hands weren't lively enough:
If the Saints were so hot for a running back, why were they interested only in Ricky Williams and not Edgerrin James? When he met James at the NFL scouting combine in February, New Orleans coach Mike Ditka didn't think much of James's handshake. "Like shaking hands with a dead fish," Ditka said last week.
Just remember that the next time you're trusting Mike Ditka to make an important decision.
Anyways, the other thing that I'll remember about Edgerrin is his competitive spirit. He was a bit of a free spirit (remember the big hubbub when he skipped on voluntary workouts that one year?) but he definitely wasn't a free loader. He was always in shape and he was always ready to compete. There's two stories from this SI article that sum up that competitive nature perfectly:
Last call is long gone. Darkness has turned to dawn. Only now, when his opponents' legs are beginning to wobble in the South Florida humidity, is Edgerrin James hitting his stride. Dreadlocks flying, ribbed undershirt soaked with sweat, the Indianapolis Colts' irrepressible running back sends a purple bowling ball spinning toward its target, and the conversations of a dozen onlookers come to a halt. There's a gasp as James picks up a difficult split and closes out another pair of suckers, adding a few more Benjamins to the growing wad of cash in his baggy nylon shorts.
A menacing mass of muscle and hustle, James has no intention of leaving Don Carter's Kendall Lanes while there's still money to be won. The two guys who run the alley are getting antsy, having allowed James and his party to stay long past closing time, and now James is working them, too, taking their night's wages on lane 1 while cleaning out Tennessee Titans cornerback Samari Rolle and two other marks on lane 2. Barely pausing between rolls, James, wearing Reebok sneakers and placing only his ring and middle fingers in the ball holes, rolls a 212 on the first lane and 246 on the other. It hardly seems fair, and it isn't: James has been bowling for all of a month.
As James drives through Kendall, he recalls an earlier visit to the bowling alley with a group that included his four-year-old daughter, Edquisha. It seems Edquisha, who lives with her mother, Andia Wilson, in Immokalee, camped out in the alley's game room and "outdrove" some of her father's friends in video races. "Finally," James says, "I went in there and kicked her a**. She was mad, too. She was practically crying, and she wouldn't talk to anyone." Did James even think about letting his daughter win? "Hell, no," he says. "She always has to know I'm the dominant one."
I don't know if either of those stories help his HOF chances any, but they should. Every game Edge goes out to show that he's the dominant one on the field and week in and week out, he shows it in whatever way necessary. Isn't that more important than a good handshake?