Editor's note: This is the second of a five-part series focusing on some of the most recent inductees into the Montana Football Hall of Fame. The stories will appear over the next several days. Part III will feature Bill Kollar.
Dwan Edwards has enjoyed his year off.
After spending 12 seasons in the National Football League, Edwards called it a career after playing in Super Bowl 50 as a member of the Carolina Panthers two seasons ago.
Edwards has now had a chance to reflect on his first season removed from football. Often, players admit walking away from a game they've known all their life is tough.
Edwards said it was an easy decision.
"I just knew my time," he said. "Twelve years is an extremely long time, especially at the defensive line, and you just know you can't play forever. I'm walking away healthy, and obviously I wish we would've won the Super Bowl but obviously getting to play in that was a highlight."
Watching instead of playing has been a nice change of pace for the Billings native, who grew up in Columbus.
"It's been amazing to sit back and watch and not get my body beat up," he said Saturday just before his induction into the second class of the Montana Football Hall of Fame. "(I can) kind of be a fan and root for the guys that I know, but it's been awesome to spend time with my family and just get away and let my body recover and just kind of let my mind clear.
"It's been football for so long in my life it's just been amazing just to kind of remove that kind of filter out of my life and get acquainted with just being a dad."
Edwards said he tries to come back to Montana about three to four times a year. Since being drafted in the second round out of Oregon State in 2004 by the Baltimore Ravens, Edwards has regularly conducted free football camps for kids in Billings.
Giving back to the community has been important to Edwards, saying Montana football has meant a lot to him because of how community driven it is.
"Obviously, the small-town feel and the way people grow up in these small towns, there's so much that goes into it and so much pride in the community," he said. "I just loved being a part of that."
He added, "Sad I couldn't get a state championship for my hometown of Columbus, but I enjoyed playing for them extremely hard and hopefully I made them proud."
"I would have had no idea the impact I made on some of these kids that watch me as little kids. I ran into one (last Friday) and it was cool. It really struck me how it's crazy to think that people are always watching you and you can really make a difference."
Edwards spent six years with Baltimore, though he missed all of 2008 due to injury, two with the Buffalo Bills and four with the Panthers. He tallied 353 total tackles, 19.5 sacks and grabbed three interceptions.
Now, well, his role has changed a bit.
"I feel like an Uber driver," Edwards, a father of five, said laughing.
Edwards' children range from age 17 to 1, and said that takes up his days now.
"It's a full-time job," he said. "My wife needs a break, because she's done a lot of it by herself for a long time."
Edwards also said he's writing a book to pass the time, reflecting on his experiences. He's traveled a lot and used public speaking as a way to work with kids and help motivate them for the future. He also coached his 12-year-old son D.J. in seventh-grade football, winning a championship.
As time goes on, he said he'd like to get into player development, crediting that passion coming from being a mentor to younger football players as he got older. Buffalo's new head coach, Sean McDermott, who was the defensive coordinator in Charlotte while Edwards was there, offered Edwards a job to join his staff in Buffalo. But Edwards said the timing wasn't quite right to take the job.
"It was something I wanted to do, but moving to Buffalo, uprooting the family after I just bought a house, just, I couldn't sell my wife on that," he said. "It was something that I enjoyed, getting to help guys extend their careers, play as long as they can, help them save their money. Just help them be professionals so that's something I'd like to do."
Appreciative of his induction into the Hall of Fame, Edwards said life has been treating him well since he retired.
"I'm enjoying it, I really am," he said. "Getting to travel and not have anything tying me down and just really getting to enjoy (time) with my family."