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Chicago Rush Offensive Lineman Steve Edwards Is Back in the Game

By Justin Breen | March 19, 2013 8:24am

BEVERLY — At 6 feet 4 inches and 315 pounds, Chicago Rush offensive lineman Jeff Maddux considers himself a large human being.

But he was blown away the first time he met teammate Steve Edwards during the team's training camp in Arlington Heights earlier this year.

"I was right behind him during weigh-ins and physicals, and I didn't know who he was, and he was massive," Maddux said of Edwards, 34, a Mount Carmel graduate who also played offensive lineman for the Chicago Bears from 2002-05. "He made us look small."

Edwards is 6-foot-5 and weighs 360 pounds. That's 40 pounds less than what he tipped the scales at in December, when he decided to return to football after taking off a year.

Playing for the Arena League's Rush is a chance for Edwards — dubbed "Big Steve" by teammates — to suit up again in front of his family.

He still lives with many of them in a three-flat in Beverly big enough for 15 people.

"Only problem I have with him now is the food thing; he's taking my share of the food," joked his brother Charles Edwards, 40, the head football coach at Collins High School, who is 6-foot-4 and weighs 305.

"But seriously, he's a great resource to have around because I can bounce football ideas off him," he said.

His mother, Mary, and two aunts have owned the 4,700-square-foot building since Edwards was born in 1979.

He was big then, too; Edwards was a 10-pound baby.

"I wanted to end my career where I started it and put a stamp on it," said Edwards, who began his playing days on the St. Barnabas Parish team, when he was a 6-foot-tall eighth-grader.

After stellar careers at Mount Carmel, where he blocked for Donovan McNabb, and at Central Florida, Edwards started 24 games for the Bears. He then competed for the NFL's New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Rattlers of the Arena League and California Redwoods of the United Football League.

"It was exciting for me as a football coach to see him go that far," said Bill Zitzka, a Beverly resident who was Edwards' coach at St. Barnabas. "He's got a lot of people down on the South Side here that will be rooting for him."

Edwards also coaches the offensive line at Mount Carmel and instructs players ages 10-14 at Ada Park for the Junior Bears football program.

"All the kids look up to him, literally and figuratively," Mount Carmel head coach Frank Lenti said. "When he talks to the kids, he speaks from the heart. He tells them what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear."

Edwards said Scott Bailey, Rush director of player personnel, contacted him to play in the 2012 season, but he declined because he was out of shape.

But Edwards later decided he wanted another chance at pro ball this year.

"I had just gotten done with a workout and was going to call them, but Scott called me instead," Edwards said. "I took it as a sign."

Edwards will play guard for the Rush, who open their season Saturday and employ four offensive linemen. Arena Football is different than other professional leagues in that only two true offensive linemen — a center and guard — are on the field at any time.

Edwards said he hopes to play at least two seasons for the Rush, and is content that his NFL career is behind him.

"Playing now is more than just about football," Edwards said. "It's time to get my name kind of back out there. I want to get back into the community and use this opportunity to make things happen."