Indianapolis Star sportswriters offer their personal remembrances of Edgerrin James.
It’s easy to summon a sampling Edge’s on-field highlights, the type that makes his addition to the Colts’ Ring of Honor a no-brainer.
But Edge transcended the playing field.
I laugh every time I think of him paying off a lost bet with linebacker Sam Sword and Rodregis Brooks on a 2001 Yankees-Diamondbacks World Series game. He ponied up by dragging two large buckets filled with pennies into the locker room and setting them in front of each winner’s cubicle: 50,000 pennies ($500) for Sword, 10,000 for Brooks.
I smile when I recall a conversation we once shared. I asked Edge what he planned on doing when he retired.
“I’ll be a tourist. Full time,” he said. “Just do whatever. You know tourists. They don’t know where they’re going, but they’re going to have a good time.”
And my appreciation for him grows when I remember visiting him in his hometown of Immokalee, Fla., to gauge his recovery from knee surgery that curtailed his 2001 season. He took me on a tour of his Fun House. He invested his time and money to transform two buildings that had been hangouts for druggies and thugs into a YMCA-like facility for the neighbor kids and a weight room for himself.
How to choose when the memories are so many.
I’ll take Edge’s rookie year, 1999, a tight, tough game on a dreary October afternoon at Giants Stadium. He was playing with the effects of a separated shoulder suffered the week before against Miami, and when he picked himself up after a third-quarter collision, he had another issue.
His left ring finger jutted at a grotesque angle and he shrieked with red-hot pain. Edge wasn’t coming out. He grabbed the dislocated digit with his right hand, yanked, and snapped it back into place.
His were the hands in which the Colts entrusted the ball and the ball game when they needed to put away the New York Jets while killing the clock. He carried six times for 25 yards on the grinding 10-play, 35-yard drive that led to Mike Vanderjagt’s field goal with 14 seconds to play.
The 16-13 victory was the first of 11 straight for the Colts in a turn-the-corner 13-3 season during which Edge rushed for an NFL-best 1,553 yards.
He was, or is, tough, killer competitive and so many things the gold teeth and spray of unkempt hair belied: bright, honest, warm, engaging, fun, funny, unique.
Edge’s greatest gift is the one he gives so freely. You always walk away from him feeling good.
Phillip B. Wilson
It became a thrill-seeking imperative to try to hook up with Edge during the Colts’ trip to Miami for Super Bowl XLI in 2007. But catching up to the fun-loving dude was anything but easy.
He was going to be at the Hard Rock Café and Casino in Hollywood, Fla. One thing about Edge, when he goes “clubbing,” he’s a night owl. Text messages continued upon my arrival. He wasn’t on location yet.
Edge didn’t arrive until 1:55 a.m. Saturday, but had hopped to another club. When we thought we had him tracked down, I wasn’t allowed in because I was wearing shorts. My colleagues couldn’t gain access to where he was hanging out.
We gave up and were walking to the parking lot when Edge texted again. Our last chance was the Blue Plate Diner at 4:35 a.m. He stood up and hollered from 20 yards away, “What up, man!”
We talked for 30 minutes about his days in Indy and how he was confident the Colts would defeat the Chicago Bears.
“The Colts are still my team,” Edge said, although he was then with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Colts will always be his team. And Edge will always be one of my favorites.
My favorite memories of Edge usually came off the field rather than on it.
In the locker room, he was one of the funniest and most engaging guys you’d ever want to meet. He was honest, he was without guile, he spoke from the heart.
I remember when we asked him about the Colts’ Japan trip, and he said, “The closest I’m getting to Japan is going to a Benihana.”
As a player, he was one of the last of the Mohicans, a true every-down back who could run, catch passes and block. I think the latter was one of his great, unappreciated attributes, his ability to pick up a blitz and keep Peyton Manning clean. I thought he lost a little of his burst after the knee problem in 2001, but he was still always good for four, five yards a pop. I would think he was stopped after a 2-yard gain, but somehow, with those legs churning and that amazing forward lean, he always seemed to squeeze extra yards out of that run.