ATHENS, Ga. - Terrence Edwards felt bad enough Sunday morning after his costly dropped pass and his mother's hospitalization.
Then came the piling on from so-called fans amounting to unnecessary roughness.
A nasty voice mail and hand-painted sign greeted Edwards' return to Athens after Georgia's 20-13 defeat to Florida. More venom awaited him on the Internet and sports radio.
The most prolific pass catcher in Bulldogs history had become a whole new kind of receiving target.
"I really can't understand why people look at things and criticize like they've never made a mistake before," Edwards said. "That's the sad part....If you don't want to see anybody make a mistake, then don't be a fan."
Legitimate criticism comes with the territory. Put yourself on the line every week in front of 80,000 spectators and millions more on television, and you'll eventually feel the heat of human imperfection.
It's all right to be disappointed in the Bulldogs and even in Edwards. But the kind of bitter heat that spills into a player's personal life is classless. Edwards is still just a college kid. He doesn't get paid to perform. And before you get bent out of shape because he gets a free education, remember that any resident of Georgia can get free tuition and fees through HOPE scholarships and a B average.
Edwards is one of the classiest college players in the country. He works harder than most. Plays better than most. When he makes mistakes, Edwards always owns up to them and never shies away.
"You feel terrible for the guy," quarterback David Greene said. "Terrence wanted to catch that ball as bad as everybody wanted him to catch it."
Edwards represents Georgia. The Bulldog fans who angrily ridicule him do not. They freely use the royal "We" only to turn on the team when times are tough. The players rightfully question that kind of booster's allegiance.
"There are people that claim to really bleed red and black, and we let them down," lineman Jon Stinchcomb said. "But the real fans are the ones that make the effort to say, 'We're still behind you.' I don't really have a whole lot of words for those who are really bagging on Terrence."
A day after lamenting the venom spit his way and what his legacy might be at Georgia, Edwards was back on the practice field. He carried with him Tuesday a fistful of e-mail printouts from fans showing their support.
"More people out there are with me than against me," he said.
His parents, however, hear the negativity in the bleachers. That negativity shapes their opinions of Georgia fans, enough that Edwards says it will be "hard for them coming here knowing the way their kids were treated."
As of Tuesday night, Edwards' mother was still undergoing stress tests in a Jacksonville, Fla., hospital. Doctors still don't know why she fainted several times late during the loss to Florida.
Weighing his mother's health against a dropped football, Edwards sports a refreshing perspective.
"There are more important things than a football game," he said. "I wish people around this Bulldog Nation would think that. It's a game, and everybody loves playing this game. But my main concern right now is my mom and not that football game."
We should all be as grounded.
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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