The University of Michigan football program has no shortage of icons over the years. ranging from names like Tom Harmon and Fielding Yost all the way to Bo Schembechler, Desmond Howard and more.
Every generation of Wolverine fans has one player that comes to mind when thinking about the guy that defines their favorite era of Michigan football. The kids of the 90s had Heisman trophy winners in Howard in 1991 and Charles Woodson in 1997, but those who grew up in the 2000s will always remember one name: wide receiver Braylon Edwards.
Edwards may not only be the best wide receiver in Michigan history, but he has a legitimate case to be considered one of the top players ever to wear the winged helmet period.
The wide receiver position at U-M and No. 1 jersey awarded to the player worthy of wearing it (think Thor's hammer) is a part of Michigan football history tied in almost as closely as "The Victors" or touching the banner while running onto the field. Edwards was one of the few who were able to lay claim to wearing the number and his production in college backed that up.
During his senior season in 2004, he set Michigan season records for receptions (97) and receiving yards (1,330) while hauling in 15 touchdowns. Over his career, he had 252 receptions, 3,541 yards, and 39 touchdowns, while also holding the record for most games with 100 or more receiving yards (17).
Edwards is the only wide receiver in Big Ten history to gain 1,000 or more receiving yards in three consecutive years, which he did from 2002-2004.
Following his senior season in 2004, he won the Fred Biletnikoff Award given to the nation's top wide receiver, was awarded the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the Big Ten Conference's most valuable player, and was recognized as a unanimous first-team All-American.
For me personally, the best Edwards moment while at Michigan came in their 2004 match-up with Michigan State at the Big House, which is one of the most thrilling games in U-M football history.
Down 27-10 with about eight minutes left in the game, Edwards grabbed two touchdowns in regulation to help send things to overtime, and caught one more in the third overtime, leading Michigan to a 45-37 victory over MSU. He simply dominated the game down the stretch.
That game was Edward's career in a nutshell, and one of the lasting memories I have of Michigan football.
He was the third overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He worked through his first few years in the league, but in 2007, he went to the Pro Bowl after showing exactly what he had at Michigan with 80 for 1289 yards and 16 touchdowns. From there, his NFL career tapered off and he has not played in the league since 2012.
Edward's pro career may have not been what people expected after his four years in Ann Arbor, but what he was able to do while wearing the maize and blue stands on its own.
He was one of those once-in-a-decade players and where we stand today, he is without a doubt the best player Michigan has had since Woodson.
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