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Georgia carried to Sugar Bowl by little brothers

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2002

NEW ORLEANS -- Terrence Edwards always looked up to his big brother.

When Robert headed to the football field, Terrence wasn't far behind. When Robert went to Georgia, Terrence figured that would be a good school for him, too.

''We were close,'' Terrence Edwards said Sunday. ''I never played with my age group. I was always smaller, but I wanted to play with (Robert). That made me the player I am today.''

But the little brother did something his big brother couldn't during his Bulldog career -- win a Southeastern Conference championship.

Terrence Edwards, a senior receiver, wasn't the only Georgia player who one-upped a distinctive older sibling. Jon Stinchcomb and Boss Bailey also arrived at Georgia in 1998, following Matt Stinchcomb and Champ Bailey.

In time, each of the younger siblings carved out his own distinctive legacy.

Edwards will leave as the leading receiver in school history. Stinchcomb and Bailey were both second-team All-Americans in their senior season, helping the third-ranked Bulldogs (12-1) win their first Southeastern Conference title since 1982.

Oh, brother.

''They have a lot of respect for their brothers and what they did,'' said Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose team meets No. 16 Florida State in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night. ''But they got something their brothers will never get: an SEC championship ring. It validates their career. They all had some big, big shoes to fill.''

Indeed, the three older brothers set a very high standard for their siblings.

Matt Stinchcomb was an All-American lineman who finished with a near-perfect 3.96 grade-point average. Champ Bailey played both offense and defense, also making the All-America team. Robert Edwards rushed for more than 2,000 yards in his college career, despite being plagued by injuries. When college was done, all three were picked in the first round of the NFL draft.

The older brothers played on a 10-2 team in 1997, but they always fell short of a championship.

''Matt put in four great years of work, like most of us here at Georgia, but he didn't accomplish some of his goals,'' Jon Stinchcomb said. ''I'm sure he's a little jealous, but I also know he's extremely proud. He feels like he's part of this, too.''

Matt, now a backup guard for the playoff-bound Oakland Raiders, conceded that he has no intention of trying on his little brother's championship ring.

''I don't want to end up being any more jealous than I already am,'' the older Stinchcomb said after Oakland closed the regular season with a victory over Kansas City. ''I've got to tell you: you go to school trying to win championships. So, when you don't get it done and others are able to, you really wish you had.''

Boss Bailey called his brother -- a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Washington Redskins -- shortly after the Bulldogs won the SEC title. Since then, he's made sure to keep Champ updated on every step it takes to get a championship ring.

All in good fun, of course.

''I've been bragging about how we designed them,'' said Boss Bailey, who also followed another older brother, Ronald, with the Bulldogs. ''I definitely can't wait to show it off. It's for my finger only.''

Robert Edwards now plays for the Miami Dolphins, having made a remarkable comeback from a knee injury that almost cost him his left leg. He doesn't feel left out of Georgia's championship season, even though he hasn't taken a handoff at the school in four years.

''We're on top of the SEC,'' Robert said Sunday in a telephone interview from New England, where the Dolphins lost to the Patriots. ''I feel like I was part of that. We were able to raise the bar and help get us back on top.''

He's especially happy for his little brother, who broke all of Georgia's major career receiving records -- and even the SEC mark for yards with 3,033 -- but still had plenty of ups and downs.

As a junior, Terrence Edwards was benched for several games because he wasn't taking practice seriously enough. He bounced back as a senior to have the best year of his career (56 receptions, 944 yards, 10 touchdowns), but many will remember the catch he didn't make.

In the waning minutes against Florida, Terrence dropped a potential touchdown pass. The Bulldogs wound up with only loss, 20-13, costing them a chance to play for the national title.

Edwards was condemned by many in the Bulldog faithful, prompting a strong rebuke from his family against fair-weather fans.

''You can't win all the time,'' Robert Edwards said. ''People drop balls. People make mistakes. We're all human. It's just a game.''

At Georgia, it's also a family affair. Those who came first set the bar. Those who came next jumped even higher.

''Playing behind Matt really helped me,'' Jon Stinchcomb said. ''He helped me realize that you can set high standards for yourself. He helped me realize that you can reach goals that might be considered too lofty.''



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