Brad Edwards, retired player and CEO, NFL Alumni

As a player, Brad Edwards twice played on University of South Carolina teams whose seasons culminated in the Gator Bowl.

Following his nine-year NFL playing career that included winning Super Bowl XXVI with the Washington Redskins, Edwards went into college sports administration. He was an administrator at his alma mater when the Gamecocks played in the Outback Bowl and the Liberty Bowl.

Edwards then became the athletic director at Jacksonville University. While the Dolphins competed at the NCAA Division I-AA level (now known as the Football Championship Subdivision), Edwards remained involved with the college football bowl system, volunteering on the Gator Bowl’s marketing committee and having Jacksonville serve as a host site for one of the Gator Bowl teams each year.

So when Edwards returned to the Washington area as the athletic director at George Mason University, it seemed like a natural fit when another former Redskins player started talking up the Military Bowl. Brig Owens, one of the best players in team history, was a member of the Military Bowl Foundation’s Board of Directors.

“I was obviously familiar with the Military Bowl and I had run into Brig, who I had a lot of respect for, and he told me about his work on the Bowl and introduced me to” Military Bowl Foundation President & Executive Director Steve Beck.

“I had a real love for the bowl season and the inner workings of it. Given my background in football at a high level, I saw it as a really good marriage.”

Add in the game’s mission of honoring and supporting the nation’s service members and Edwards said it was a no brainer for him to join the board in 2017.

“I grew up in the shadow of Fort Bragg with an appreciation for the military and what it did for the economy of my hometown,” Edwards said. “So many people I grew up with served in the military. And the Military Bowl offers the perfect marriage of college sports, football, the bowl system and supporting the USO and the military.”

Edwards’ first Military Bowl saw Virginia return the opening kickoff for a touchdown before being drubbed by Navy, 49-7 – continuing an unusual trend that Edwards noticed throughout his playing career.

“In 24 years of playing football at all levels, 100 percent of the games I’ve been a participant in, if a team returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, that team almost always lost,” Edwards said.

In the time since, Edwards’ resolve to being a part of the Military Bowl Foundation has strengthened. Although he recently accepted a new job as CEO of NFL Alumni, Edwards plans to remain involved in the Military Bowl.

“It goes back to the very essence of why I joined to start with: I love college football,” Edwards said. “With [participating teams from] the ACC and the American, you are picking up real quality competition. There are players that are going to be on an NFL field next year.

“I love the bowl system and the celebratory nature of the Bowl, and working with Steve and understanding what it takes to put together media packages, sponsorship packages, hospitality, game ops and tickets – and to know at the end of the day it really is about celebrating and supporting the military. You can’t not be excited about those things.

“And knowing that at the end of the day, you’re part of the system of college football and helping a lot of young athletes get college degrees. You’re playing a part in that process. It’s pretty simple, when you start to break it down from that perspective.”