Coaches Named for East-West Shrine Game in St. Pete
The game, which benefits the Shriners Hospital for Children, will be at Tropicana Field on Saturday (Jan. 21).
ST. PETERSBURG – Coaches for the 2017 East-West Shrine Game have been chosen: Arizona Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner will head the East squad; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards will call plays for the West.
The game, which benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children, is set for Saturday (Jan. 21) at Tropicana Field and will feature many of the nation’s top football players from this past college season.
Buckner just concluded his fourth season as an NFL coach, having joined the Cardinal’s staff in early 2013. Like the young men he will guide in the all-star game, Buckner was a college football stand-out, earning All-American honors as a defensive tackle at Clemson University (1990 – 93). A three-year starter, he left the school with a record of 22 sacks and 46 tackles for a loss. He was a second-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1994.
Buckner played three years for the Steelers, including a Super Bowl appearance in 1995. He went to the Cincinnati Bengals for a year, before signing with the San Francisco 49ers where he played three seasons. Buckner joined the Carolina Panthers in 2001 and ended his playing career there after five seasons, once again reaching the Super Bowl in 2004.
After retiring as a player, Buckner took up coaching at the high school level in Charlotte, NC, before transitioning to the NFL as a member of the Steelers training camp staff (2010 – 2012). Now the Cardinals’ defensive line coach, Buckner has made an immediate impact. In his first year with the team, the Cardinals had the NFL’s sixth-ranked defense overall and the league’s top run defense (84.4 yards per game). This past season, the Cardinal’s gave up the second fewest yards of any team in the NFL.
Compared with his Shrine Game counterpart, Edwards has had a long coaching career. This year, he finished his 19th season tutoring an NFL defense—the last three as the Vikings’ defensive coordinator. In addition to Minnesota, Edwards was also a defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins (2003) and the Buffalo Bills (2010 – 11). Additional NFL coaching experience includes the Dallas Cowboys (linebackers 1998 – 2001), Washington Redskins (linebackers, assistant DC, 2002), Cleveland Browns (linebackers 2004), and Miami Dolphins (linebackers, 2005 – 09).
Edwards, who lettered all four years playing linebacker at Duke University in the late 1980s, has also coached at the college level. His first assignment was as an assistant at Florida in 1991, followed by Appalachian State (1992 – 95) and Duke (1996). He was the defensive line coach for the Georgia Bulldogs in in 1997 and he took a year off from the NFL in 2010 to serve as defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators.
When Edwards came to the Vikings, he inherited a team that was giving up more points per game than any other team in the NFL and surrendering the second most yards per game. A year later, the Vikings had the league’s most improved defense, allowing 7.1 fewer points per game. During his tenure, Minnesota’s defense has made steady improvement and only two teams – Buckner’s Cardinals and the Houston Texans gave up fewer yards per game in 2016.
Edwards is also recognized for his ability to get maximum production out of young players—something that will no doubt come into play as he directs his West Shrine Game squad.
“It’s a great honor. I really appreciate the opportunity to help prepare these prospects for the NFL draft. A lot of them have probably dreamed their whole life about playing in the NFL,” Edwards said.
The Vikings’ coach is especially looking forward to introducing the players to processes, techniques and even some fundamentals of NFL football, that they have not encountered before.
For his part, Buckner said, “I feel like it’s a great opportunity to coach future greats of the NFL.”
As a former player, he understands the importance of all-star games to young players who hope to “play on Sundays.” Buckner noted that for many of these players—especially those from smaller schools—the Shrine Game is a special opportunity to showcase their ball skills against elite talent.
“Hopefully, we (the coaching staff) will have a chance to get them a step closer to realizing their dreams,” Buckner said.
As the game is dedicated to supporting Shriners Hospitals for Children, Buckner said, “it’s a blessing to be a part of this and to help raise awareness of very important work.”
That was a sentiment that Edwards shared, saying, “There’s no doubt about it, there couldn’t be a better cause. What Shriners does in helping young kids overcome challenges is so important and I’m very proud to contribute.”
For information about the East-West Shrine game, go to shrinegame.com.
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