A LOT OF WORDS have been used to describe Maryland defensive end Karl Edwards, and most of them are probably accurate. Karl is on the edge, people say, enigmatic, complex, eccentric, cocky, a loner, different.
"Everyone has to be different," Edwards said. "We all see a different color when we look at the same picture."
Different. Here, in Karl Edwards, we have a true individual. Putting it mildly, he has been a challenge for Maryland's coaches.
The big blond kid from Aberdeen High is nearing the end of his Maryland football career. After five years, it is fair to ask if Edwards has fulfilled his enormous potential.
"Ask him," coach Joe Krivak said guardedly.
"Not yet," Edwards answered. "I have another game."
But only one. On Saturday against No. 7 Virginia in Charlottesville, Maryland will finish its season and Edwards will finish his college career.
"The biggest thing is that Karl is going to graduate," Krivak said in a tone bordering on incredulous.
It was touch and go at one point. To remain eligible for football, Edwards needed a 3.5 grade-point average in six subjects over two six-week sessions last summer to bring his overall GPA in his recreation major up to snuff. He made it.
"My girlfriend told me that if God could part the Red Sea, he could make Karl Edwards eligible," Karl Edwards said.
Edwards has shoulder-length blond hair and rides a motor scooter around campus. He does not always take instruction particularly well.
Early in Edwards' career here, Krivak tried to get him to keep his hair shorter. Edwards tried to see how little he could cut and still meet Krivak's rule on hair.
"I never noticed my long hair was different," Edwards said, "until people told me. It's inside that counts. I am who I am."
Testing, always testing. "He likes to test you, to see how far you'll bend," said Kurt Van Valkenburgh, the defensive ends coach. "He's a good kid who works hard, but he's a complex guy who wants to be in control of his own situation. We tell him you can't always do that."
What's Edwards like to coach?
"Interesting," Van Valkenburgh said. "Sometimes difficult, other times very enjoyable. There's been a difference of opinion on how things should be done.
"Like in the offseason. Working on weights and going to class. All the things you're supposed to do. We have a set plan and Karl hasn't always been willing to do it. Things aren't always as important to him as we want them to be."
Edwards stands 6 feet 3 and weighs 222 pounds. He has played in all 10 games this year, ranking 10th on the team in tackles, but has started only four times, due in part to his late practice start because of summer school. He has been at least a sometime starter since his freshman year in 1987.
"He's a great athlete," said linebacker Glenn Page, the Terps' leading tackler. "He has all the tools. Fast. Great jumper. Super strength. Intense. And crazy, at times. He does things the average person doesn't do."
In early August 1988, Edwards was returning here from Aberdeen on his black Harley Davidson motorcycle at 1 a.m. He had turned off Interstate 95 onto U.S. 1 and was going 55 mph when a car pulled into the neutral lane and didn't see Edwards coming.
The collision sent Edwards over the top of the woman's car, his foot striking the windshield and breaking it. "My foot was the last thing to leave the bike because it was on the brakes," he said sagely. Edwards did a flip and landed on his back.
His motorcycle was totaled, but Edwards escaped with a bruised shoulder. It so happened he was wearing a helmet that he had borrowed from a friend. He says he never wore a helmet, and hasn't since on his scooter.
"I figure if I got out of that accident alive, I can ride around campus on a scooter without a helmet going only 35 to 40 miles an hour," Edwards said.
He also has a car, which he got as a high school junior, but he keeps it at home. It's a 1973 Duster with an "Earth Angel" label and "motion stripes."
On the rare occasions when he goes home, Edwards gets a ride with teammate Darren Colvin, also an Aberdeen High grad, or his father picks him up. He will not say whether a girlfriend gives him a ride to Aberdeen because "I can't give pub to my girls."
When Edwards was 2 years old, his parents separated. He was raised by his father, Keith, and his grandmother.
"At the time, it was great fun," Edwards said. "I mean, I didn't know anything else. You just go through it. My father was always there for me, and still is. He sees all my games."
Edwards, who is legally blind in his left eye from an accident at the age of 8 when his brother Keith threw a toy at him, quickly established a reputation as a fine athlete at Aberdeen. In wrestling, he won three state Class B/C titles, one at 185 pounds and two as a heavyweight.
"I pinned my guy in the finals all three years," Edwards said. "I fit best into stressful situations, like that and goal-line stands in football. I come out of the box when the time comes. I tell myself this is what I'm here for."
Edwards might have been wooed by college wrestling powers, but, when he was a sophomore, he told his Aberdeen coach, Dick Slutzky, to keep the recruiters away because he wanted to play college football.
"I was a straight-A student and didn't want to waste study time dealing with wrestling recruiters," Edwards said.
When he arrived at Maryland, Edwards wasn't sure his "personality was relative to the team." His teammates were "playful, and joked around." Edwards was more serious.
"In high school, I was in a gang," he said. "There were riots, blacks vs. whites, with weapons and streets full of people. I wasn't used to joking around. I also found ego problems when I came here, and I had one of them."
Maybe Edwards hasn't fulfilled his enormous potential. But he has had success at Maryland, enough to allow him to entertain hopes of making the NFL. And, if he doesn't?
"Oh, I'll probably open Karl Edwards' Athletics Club somewhere," he said.