UMaine’s Earnest Edwards accounted for 259 all-purpose yards in the Black Bears’ 34-30 comeback win over Rhode Island last season. Peter Buehner photo

Earnest Edwards was looking forward to a pro day, when NFL scouts would come to Orono with their stop watches and clipboards and send the University of Maine’s top senior prospects through drill after drill.

The scouts measure speed, strength and agility. They note how high each player jumps. Pro day is an overall skill assessment, like the SATs for football.

Last year, Edwards attended the Black Bears pro day as a supportive teammate to his friends going through it. This year, the coronavirus pandemic shut down UMaine and canceled pro day. Home in Rochester, New York, Edwards was able to livestream a private workout for scouts. His parents were there, which was nice, but it wasn’t the same as having a couple dozen teammates cheering you on.

“Having your boys around you, you feel like you can do anything,” Edwards said in a phone interview last Friday. “I had to dig for that energy myself. It was definitely weird.”

Last fall, Edwards proved himself one of the top wide receivers in the Football Championship Subdivision, earning first team all-Colonial Athletic Association honors as a senior. Edwards was the CAA Special Teams Player of the Year, and his prowess returning kicks earned Edwards All-American status from six organizations or publications.

Edwards can play. The question is, can he play in the NFL?

“Yeah, man. I’m ready,” he said. “I don’t feel nervous. More than anything, I’m excited.”

Edwards devotes his Twitter account almost exclusively to this goal that is so close. Pinned at the top of Edwards’ feed is his 2019 highlight video.

UMaine’s Earnest Edwards caught 11 touchdown passes last season.  Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Monday, Edwards tweeted the video of his 95-yard kick return for a touchdown last season at Colgate. Edwards ran through all would-be tacklers on the play, and included this caption with his tweet: “My speed was being questioned and I still don’t know why.”

On April 19, Edwards tweeted: “I know what it takes. I have what it takes.”

On April 12, Edwards tweeted: “Draft me!! I won’t disappoint.”

Edwards is confident, but that confidence didn’t materialize from nothing. Edwards has the on-field resume to attract the NFL’s attention. Last season, he was 16th in the FCS in receiving yards (1,097) and 16th in receiving touchdowns (11). Edwards was tied for first with two kickoff returns for touchdowns, and first in the nation in yards per kick return (28.5).

Edwards scored a touchdown in 10 of Maine’s 12 games in 2019. Eight of his 11 touchdown catches went for 15 or more yards. Six of those were scored on plays of 25 or more yards.

“I’m a playmaker. It showed over the last couple of years in college,” Edwards said. “There’s not a lot to do at Maine. Football and school. That’s what I focused on.”

Edwards’ pro day workout was set up through his agents at DEC Management, which tried to afforded clients the opportunity to work out and have the results available for any team to check out. Edwards did not attend the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, but his 40-yard dash time, 4.41 seconds, would have been the seventh-fastest time for a wideout there.

That speed is a big factor in Edwards’ plus column. His production is another. As far as cons, there’s his relative lack of size (5-foot-10 and 188-pounds) and concerns about the level of competition Edwards saw against FCS opponents. Those aren’t red flags, but things NFL teams will consider.

Other Black Bears who have made the jump to pro football are in Edwards’ corner. Jamil Demby, an offensive lineman with the Los Angeles Rams, has offered Edwards encouragement through social media. Micah Wright, a wide receiver who attended rookie camp with the New Orleans Saints last year before signing with the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League, offered Edwards a couple tips.

Edwards said he’s talked to eight teams so far, mostly about life outside of football.

“They’re just trying to get to know me a little more,” he said.

If Edwards gets the call from an NFL team, it will likely come Saturday, the final day of the draft. If the call doesn’t come during the draft, Edwards can probably expect a few calls soon after, from teams looking to invite him to training camp as an undrafted free agent. In the meantime, Edwards finished his coursework online and works out.

“I’m just trying to solidify getting in there,” Edwards said.

Edwards knows the phone call that could change his life might be days away, and he remains as calm and as confident as ever. It’s not hubris. Put that in his plus column.


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