Coaches for the 2017 East-West Shrine Game have been selected with Arizona Cardinals Defensive Line Coach Brentson Buckner to head the East squad, and Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards to call plays for the West. The game, which benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children, is set for January 21, 2017, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL, and will feature many of the nation’s top football players from this past college season.
Brentson Buckner just concluded his fourth season as an NFL coach, having joined the Cardinal’s staff in early 2013. Like the young men he will guide in the all-star game, Buckner was a college football stand-out, earning All-American honors as a defensive tackle at Clemson University (1990 – 93). A three-year starter, he left the school with a record of 22 sacks and 46 tackles for a loss. He was a second-round draft pick by the Pittsburg Steelers in 1994.
Buckner played three years for the Steelers, including a Super Bowl appearance in 1995. He was then with the Cincinnati Bengals for a year, before signing with the San Francisco 49ers where he played three seasons. Buckner joined the Carolina Panthers in 2001 and ended his playing career there after five seasons, once again reaching the Super Bowl in 2004.
After retiring as a player, Buckner took up coaching at the high school level in Charlotte, NC, before transitioning to the NFL as a member of the Steelers training camp staff (2010 – 2012). Now the Cardinals’ defensive line coach, Buckner has made an immediate impact. In his first year with the team, the Cardinals had the NFL’s sixth-ranked defense overall and the league’s top run defense (84.4 yards per game). This past season, the Cardinal’s gave up the second fewest yards of any team in the NFL.
Compared to his Shrine Game counterpart, George Edwards has had a long coaching career. This year, he finished his 19th season tutoring an NFL defense—the last three as the Vikings’ defensive coordinator. In addition to Minnesota, Edwards was also a defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins (2003) and the Buffalo Bills (2010 – 11). Additional NFL coaching experience includes the Dallas Cowboys (linebackers 1998 – 2001), Washington Redskins (linebackers, assistant DC, 2002), Cleveland Browns (linebackers 2004), and Miami Dolphins (linebackers, 2005 – 09).
Edwards, who lettered all four years playing linebacker at Duke University in the late 1980s, has also coached at the college level. His first assignment was as an assistant at Florida in 1991, followed by Appalachian State (1992 – 95) and Duke (1996). He was the defensive line coach for the Georgia Bulldogs in in 1997 and he took a year off from the NFL in 2010 to serve as defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators.
When Edwards came to the Vikings, he inherited a team that was giving up more points per game than any team in the NFL and surrendering the second most yards per game. A year later, the Vikings had the league’s most improved defense, allowing 7.1 fewer points per game. During his tenure, Minnesota’s defense has made steady improvement and only two teams – Buckner’s Cardinals and the Houston Texans gave up fewer yards per game in 2016.
Edwards is also recognized for his ability to get maximum production out of young players—something that will no doubt come into play as he directs his West Shrine Game squad. He said, “It’s a great honor. I really appreciate the opportunity to help prepare these prospects for the NFL draft. A lot of them have probably dreamed their whole life about playing in the NFL.”
The Viking’s coach is especially looking forward to introducing the players to processes, techniques and even some fundamentals of NFL football, that they will never have encountered before.
For his part, Buckner said, “I feel like it’s a great opportunity to coach future greats of the NFL.” As a former player, he understands the importance of all-star games to young players who hope to “play on Sundays.” He noted that for many of these players—especially those from smaller schools—the Shrine Game is a special opportunity to showcase their ball skills against elite talent.
“Hopefully, we (the coaching staff) will have a chance to get them a step closer to realizing their dreams,” Buckner commented.
As the game is dedicated to supporting Shriners Hospitals for Children, Buckner added, “It’s a blessing to be a part of this and to help raise awareness of very important work.” It was a sentiment that Edwards shared, saying, “There’s no doubt about it, there couldn’t be a better cause. What Shriners does in helping young kids overcome challenges is so important and I’m very proud to contribute.”
About Shriners Hospitals for Children
Shriners Hospitals for Children is changing lives every day through innovative pediatric specialty care, world-class research and outstanding medical education. The 22 facilities in the United States, Canada and Mexico provide advanced care for children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate.
Shriners Hospitals for Children is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and relies on the generosity of donors. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law. To learn more about Shriners Hospitals for Children, please visit www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org.