ASU Football Coach Herm Edwards tackles Scottsdale MLK event


About 375 people huddled ready to hear from Arizona State University Football Coach Herm Edwards who was the keynote speaker at the 26th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Living the Dream Community Dinner Celebration.

On the night of Jan. 16, the coach showed the same enthusiasm and winning determination used to instruct his students in class and on the field, as he addressed the crowd during the celebration dinner held at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort.

Giving play-by-play instructions on how to be a good leader, he told onlookers that the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. not only stood for diversity and opportunity but about being a leader.

“The thing that this man has always preached is probably the most powerful word in the dictionary,” Mr. Edwards said.

Hope, vision, opportunity, integrity topped the play chart while he outlined what was necessary to be a leader.

He commended the Community Celebrating Diversity committee that spearheads Scottsdale’s MLK celebration dinner.

“What you folks have done in your leadership positions is offer hope. You are a dealer of hope. Don’t lose sight of that. You are a servant. You have an opportunity whether you like it or not,” he said.

Mr. Edwards “lobbed” the importance of leading by example, making sure that leaders’ words and actions align.

“Do your words match your actions? It’s easy to say it, but do you do it? If you’re going to lead that’s what they do,” he said, describing leadership characteristics.

“Coaches don’t give players talent. They give them knowledge.”

Tackling the concept of creating a culture and opportunities for younger generations to flourish and succeed, he asked what was being done to create opportunities for others, adding that being a leader entailed imparting knowledge and instructions.

“A goal without a plan is a wish. What are you doing to create opportunities? If you’re a leader today; you must tell them why in the beginning. Why we are going to do that and how,” Mr. Edwards said.

“Part of being a leader is --- you take all the blame --- never blame the players. That’s part of being a leader.”

The coach, who said he has about 100 players and a staff of 30, added that leadership is not about winning all the time but fixing problems.

“Dr. King saw a problem and he said, ‘You know what? You gotta’ fix it. I am going to do something to fix it.’ He wanted to fix things for his children and his children’s children,” said Mr. Edwards.

Developing and maintaining a good name was emphasized as “whatever you do in life, you represent your last name,” he stated.

“You gotta make a difference today with tomorrow in mind. At the end, we take nothing with us. What will be said about you,” said the California native.

Making the playoffs four times as an NFL head coach, Mr. Edwards’ name preceded him before he became ASU’s 24th head coach and its first black football head coach.

He spent 10 seasons in the NFL as a cornerback between the Phildelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Rams. He also spent 18 years as a scout, position coach, assistant and head coach between the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets.

A husband and father, he has received numerous accolades and awards while giving back to communities and trying to make an impact on other’s lives.

Describing Mr. Edwards, City of Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane told the crowd that he had “no doubt in my mind that he subscribes to the notion of the Golden Rule,” and he reminded people of Scottsdale’s continued efforts toward inclusion and equality.

“The fact that we can all come together as one --- to leave here knowing that there is hope,” said Don Logan, a CCD member.

Meanwhile, the evening touched down with gospel singing from Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church Choir; the Coronado High School Band; the Scottsdale Police Department Color Guard; and recognizing the winning Diversity Champions, Rosa Casas, Shannon Paloma and Peter Rusin.

“I will be coming back,” said Charles Ussery of Scottsdale who relocated from California. “I hope that it continues to grow.”

He and his wife, Vanessa, said they remembered when the MLK holiday was not acknowledged in Arizona and was happy to have accepted an invite from their cousin to attend Scottsdale’s celebration for the first time.