Braylon Edwards, wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, didn’t play in last night’s game, so we can’t credit him with that satisfying defeat of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But that’s okay; he was still making a difference.
During Edwards’s rookie year with the Cleveland Browns, the Cleveland native picked 100 high-achieving but at-risk eighth graders in the public school system. Edwards was just starting out in the NFL; these kids were just about to start high school — it was a rookie making a pledge to a bunch of other rookies. But Edwards’s pledge to those 100 students was about academics, not football. He promised them that if they graduated high school with at least a 2.5 GPA, completed 15 hours of community service, and were recognized as exemplary students, he would give them each a $10,000 scholarship toward college. Four years later, 79 of those kids succeeded — amidst a school system where more than half of kids who start high school drop out before graduation — and Edwards was true to his promise. Now, members of the Advance 100 Program are enrolled in schools from Kent State to Harvard to Bowling Green State. And Edwards has provided them with support, school supplies, and even laptops to help them make the transition.
Allison Watts, a Johns Hopkins freshman and member of Edwards’s program, appears in this ESPN video that aired during last night’s Monday Night Football. You can glimpse shots of Gilman Hall and the grassy quads of Hopkins as Watts discusses how she benefitted from the program. “I couldn’t even fathom having $1 million [the amount that Edwards has donated to his scholarship recipients],” Watts notes. “Just willing giving that away?” she says. And that’s exactly what Edwards has done.