Courtesy of The Membership Club, an NFL league-wide benefits program, 24 special season ticket members have been selected to get behind-the-scenes access to the 2014 NFL Draft. Each season ticket member was picked by their respective teams and will have a special role in Thursday's first-round festivities. They will receive custom team jerseys with "Draft Day" on the nameplate, walk the Red Carpet and hand deliver the 2014 New Era Draft Caps into Radio City Music Hall. The V.I.P. access does not stop there, as these fans also get the chance to hand NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a customized No. 1 Nike jersey from backstage as picks are announced. It will be the experience of a lifetime for 24 lucky fans, and the Philadelphia Eagles randomly selected for the honor one season ticket member who is worthy of a lifetime achievement award.
Ed Edwards, 83, has been a season ticket member since 1957, when he took over his father's account. The Eagles still played at Franklin Field at the time and were a few seasons away from their last NFL Championship. Born in Coaldale, Pa., Edwards became an Eagles fan in 1943, when he attended his first game. He was at the 1948 and 1960 NFL Championship Games and is an encyclopedia of Eagles history. Edwards has lived in Wilmington, Del., since 1956 and plans to continue the tradition of passing Eagles season tickets on to his own son.
Edwards had no idea about the honor and therefore was not expecting to receive anything, but he was overjoyed when he got the call.
"My wife and son knew about it before I did, but they didn't tell me anything!" Edwards said. "Then Merrill Reese called me and I said, 'Who?' And he said, 'It's Merrill Reese with the Eagles,' and I said, 'Oh, that's nice!' It was amazing. Everything's an experience for me because I've been going to Eagles games since 1943, when I went with my father. We used to come down on Saturday and see Chuck Bednarik play for Penn – his roommate was from my hometown – then come back on Sunday for the Eagles."
Just how dedicated is Edwards to the Eagles? He has missed only a handful of home games since 1957.
"I've been going to every home game, and I've had a lot of great experiences," Edwards said. "The only time I missed consistently was when I was in the Navy for four years. Then I came back in 1957 and have been going ever since. The only times I've missed a game was when I had quadruple-bypass surgery and knee surgery. I still wanted to go to the game following quadruple-bypass surgery, but my doctor laughed and said, 'No, you can't go to the game, you just had quadruple-bypass surgery and if you get too excited, you could drop dead!' I said, 'No, I'll be fine,' but the doctor and my wife didn't let me go."
Edwards' most cherished memory is one that all Eagles fans have so desperately wanted to experience for over 50 years.
"The 1948 Championship, I remember it well," Edwards said. "Tommy Thompson was the quarterback. My father always told me he was the 'one-eyed' quarterback. I remember the beginning of that game, it was played in a crazy snowstorm, Thompson threw a long pass to either Jack Ferrante or Pete Pihos. It went for a touchdown but was called back for being offside. It was either Ferrante or Pihos who was offside. I'll never forget, I said, 'This is crazy!' But they went on to win."
Not surprisingly, Edwards' favorite Eagles of all time are the two most iconic players from that era: Chuck Bednarik and Steve Van Buren.
"What I always loved," Edwards said, "is that (Van Buren) would line up with 1 or 2 yards to go, and everybody in the stadium knew who was getting the ball, including the opposing team, and he'd make the first down every time. Those were my greatest experiences, watching him and watching Chuck Bednarik."
Edwards is always in front of his television for the NFL Draft, but this is the first time he will attend the event live in New York City.
"I've never been to the draft, and I'm looking forward to it a lot because I've always watched it on TV – sometimes happily and sometimes not so happily," Edwards said. "I've always watched the draft. Everyone says I'm a diehard Eagles fan, which I am. In fact, I'm the president of my Veteran of Foreign War group, and they're all going to watch it on TV. … I've had a lot of people who are interested in this whole thing, they're all excited for me and have congratulated me. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm tickled to death to be going."