Thursday morning before the end of the fall semester and Wade Edwards was in the La Porte High School weight room.
More than a dozen teammates joined him, most laughing and enjoying the last few days before freedom from school and at least one of their many responsibilities.
They weren't necessarily working. Edwards was.
The junior linebacker and wide receiver pushed a sizable amount of weight on a leg press machine for several reps. Obviously not fatigued, he shimmied off the bench to the floor for a few sit-ups.
He then propped himself back up on the machine and worked out his legs, a gray t-shirt sagging around his neck.
The room was full with La Porte Bulldogs, but Edwards seemed alone in his own, focused world, pushing harder than ever to build his leg muscles under a motivational sign:
"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender."
Edwards turned to get off the bench again, this time revealing the fact he has only his right arm.
He slid back onto the floor for more sit-ups.
NOT A SETBACK
Edwards was born without his left arm and does not view his missing limb as a disability. To him it is natural.
But it did make his early football career difficult.
Edwards' father, Wade, Sr., said he remembers his son sitting on the curb in the New Orleans neighborhood where he grew up watching other boys play football.
Wade was never asked to join them.
One day Wade, Jr. came into the house and asked for a football. His father sensed something special and bought a ball. He said the younger Edwards immediately began sleeping with the ball like a teddy bear and perfecting his own style of carrying and catching.
A cousin who played football instructed Wade on some techniques. He got hit hard the first time he played with the neighborhood boys, but the second time he sent one of the larger kids to the turf.
At this point Wade decided it was better to hit than be hit.
From then on he wouldn't be Wade to his father, he would be "Poppa," both for the "pops" he laid on kids at the pee wee football games to the fatherly wisdom he always showed.
Edwards' mother, Juanita Jones said she was at first scared like any mother with a son who loves a game like football. Now she's proud. Proud of his accomplishments and proud of where he's going.
"My daddy was always like 'go out there and do your best,'" Edwards said through his sometimes thick Cajun accent. "My momma was always like, 'don't get hurt baby … Dad said if you let it get to your head, you can't think. That's how I did it."
Edwards doesn't see lifting weights as a luxury. It is a requirement.
"I lift everyday," Edwards said. "I don't stop. If I'm going to get better that's what I've got to do … If you want to be better I don't think you can take a break."
He has never let the words of La Porte head coach T.J. Mills escape his mind. For starters, Mills never had a thought of treating Edwards different than any other athlete.
That included special treatment when it came to making the football team.
"When I got here two years ago (Edwards) was in basketball," Mills said. "He came over after basketball season with the rest of the kids and we sat down and we talked about off season.
"I said we're going to get in there and bust our tails and lift and do all that and he looked at me and said, 'what about me?' I said what about you? He's become very adept at hiding his arm there. I didn't even realize it."
Mills noticed Edwards' situation a couple of days later.
He said Edwards has to do a few alternative exercises but more than makes up for any shortcomings.
His dedication to becoming the best football player on the team helped him earn the Houston Texans Comeback of the Year Award, which will be presented Jan. 2.
Mills was convinced of Edwards' ability in the first game of last season against Clear Lake. The junior was on kickoff coverage and weaved his way through a sea of defenders on the first play to level the Clear Lake return man.
The Bulldogs lost the game 35-17 and would lose to Clear Lake in the first round of the playoffs after a 5-6 season.
"When we got to the football field he just shocked me," Mills said. "He's an aggressive kid and likes contact. He does some amazing things as far as catching the football and intercepting a pass. He does some amazing things that you don't see kids with two hands doing."
'KEEP THAT ON THE LOW'
Edwards speaks with a slow, easy confidence. If he's really sure, he'll flash a little smile and nod his head.
"If I get to 180 pounds, they aren't going to stop me," he said.
Edwards gave up basketball this past season to get the extra four months of weight training. He hasn't missed many days in the Bulldogs' field house since that decision and has informed his position coach, Greg Hoff, he plans on starting on defense in 2005.
College and a shot at the NFL top his goal sheet.
But at 5-feet-10, 160 pounds he still has some muscle to build to go along with the shoulder he so easily passes through opponents' chests.
Mills said the team will continue to work him at receiver, saying the ability he shows knocking the ball up in the air and cradling it with his one arm rivals that of some of the best high school receivers.
Then a rematch with Clear Lake, which Edwards said he already has plans for.
"We've got to keep that on the low," he said of his agenda for the Bulldogs' archrival. "You've got to come out to the game to see that."