Ed Britt’s dream of playing professional football didn’t consume him or intrude on his daily life. Rather, it was a rarely mentioned long-term goal, like saving money for a child’s education or rising through the ranks of the local church.
He listened to his dad’s stories of life in the National Football League. He heeded the words of coaches and simply tried to improve.
“It’s been a dream for a long time, but I didn’t really think about it,” Britt said. “I just tried to work to get better and let the idea of playing in the pros come naturally.”
Britt became a standout defensive back at Presbyterian College, and he is one small step closer to reaching his goal with a spot in the upcoming Dream Bowl in Virginia Beach, Va.
The Dream Bowl, to be broadcast Monday on ASN and live-streamed on americansportsnet.com, is a Martin Luther King Day showcase for players from Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA), Division II and Division III programs. It includes an NFL-style combine for players to be weighed, measured and compared for scouts, and a game on Monday.
“I know if I show out there,” Britt said, “scouts might focus on me. Maybe they come to campus to see me, or at least ask to see my tape.”
Britt was a two-time All-Big South Conference safety for the Blue Hose. The 6-foot, 190-pound native of Greensboro, N.C., was second on the team in tackles (83) and was the only player in the conference to finish in the top 10 in tackles and interceptions (4).
“He was kind of the bell cow for us on defense,” PC defensive coordinator and secondary coach Tommy Spangler said. “He’s smart, he’s got great instincts. Where Ed’s really good is in short-range quickness and explosive power. Courage is hard to teach, but he plays with courage, he plays with toughness, he’s a physical player.”
Britt played cornerback his first two years at Presbyterian. He was a solid cornerback, Spangler said, but possesses the qualities to make a better safety. He is a willing defender against the run. He closes quickly on the ball. He is unafraid to take on blockers and bigger backs. He’s a good tackler, particularly in space.
“He understands what you’re doing on defense,” Spangler said. “Some guys just know their position and they don’t grasp what the whole defense is doing, but Ed gets how everybody fits. His football intelligence is high.”
Britt doesn’t possess eye-popping speed — he guesstimates that he runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash.
“But when you put on the tape, he plays fast,” Spangler said.
Britt had the opportunity to measure himself against FBS competition, as Presbyterian faced North Carolina State, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, among others, during his four years. Against Ole Miss in 2014, he had 13 tackles and an interception. He had seven tackles versus N.C. State and eight against Northern Illinois of the MAC.
“That was a great opportunity,” he said. “I could see how fast they were. Commentators said I played well against them. I learned that I can actually hang with these boys.”
“He never flinched,” Spangler said.
Britt had a bit of a leg up in football. His father Jessie played at North Carolina A&T and was with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1986. He takes his dad’s advice as he aims to follow in his footsteps.
“He definitely tells me how hard it is and how hard you have to work to make it to that level,” Ed Britt said. “But I’ve been working my whole life. I’m not scared of hard work.”
Britt has another role model in former Presbyterian cornerback Justin Bethel, drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, He recently was named to his third Pro Bowl as a special teams player.
“It’s not just Justin,” Britt said. “There are a lot of guys from smaller schools that make it to the league and are playing well. All I want is a chance.”
“If he can get to a camp,” Spangler said, “I don’t think the 11-on-11 stuff will be an issue. He knows how to play. Sooner or later, the coaches will see a guy who’s there every day, who’s durable. He can cover kickoffs, he can cover punts. He’s relentless, he’s fearless. He can help somebody.”