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Former Georgia running back Daijun Edwards hopes to succeed Jaylen Warren as the Steelers' undrafted rookie

Jaylen Warren is now an established running back in the NFL. It wasn't that long ago that he was an undrafted rookie with only a modest signing bonus in the low five-figure range and knew he still had a lot of work to do to make a name for himself with the Pittsburgh Steelers despite all the adversities.

When Daijun Edwards walked into Warren's office six weeks ago, Warren couldn't help but reminisce a little.

“That’s true,” Warren said last week, “I see a lot of myself in him.”

In 2022, Warren was signed as an undrafted rookie after a highly productive final season for a power conference program.

This spring, it was Edwards who signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent after a successful college career for a top-tier program.

Edwards, like Warren, is striving to make a name for himself among the professionals.

“I'm very confident that I can play at this level,” Edwards said after a recent team activity session. “I think I'm pretty good. I think I'm capable of doing it. I can play in the NFL.”

Warren admits he might not have had the same level of confidence two years ago, when he wasn't even the player at his position on his team who received the highest bonus check as an undrafted free agent. (Warren received $12,000 immediately after the 2022 draft; Duke's Mateo Durant got a $15,000 bonus from the Steelers.)

Warren, who rushed for 1,216 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior at Oklahoma State, not only easily beat Durant, he earned a spot on the 53-man roster as a rookie and was nearly tied with former first-round pick Najee Harris at the top of the Steelers' running back team as a sophomore.

Edwards received an $18,000 signing bonus from the Steelers after this year's draft after winning two national championships, recording more than 2,000 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns during his career with the Georgia Bulldogs.

“Nothing is too different,” Edwards said of initial impressions of the NFL level compared to the way things run at an SEC heavyweight, “but everything is pretty detailed. Nothing has really changed compared to Georgia, but everything is more detailed and you have to pay more attention to it.”

Last season, Edwards was the leading runner (881 yards) and second-leading touchdown scorer (13) for a Georgia team that spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the county but ended up falling just short of playing for its third straight College Football Playoff title. (The Bulldogs finished No. 3 in the polls.)

Edwards (5'10″, 200 pounds) was primarily a special teams player in his first two seasons for Georgia, which included winning the Peach Bowl as a freshman but effectively eliminating Georgia from the national title race with an October loss to Alabama in which Harris had 152 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Edwards knows he will have to perform on special teams if he wants a chance to make the Steelers in 2024 to complement Harris, Warren and even veteran free agent Cordarrelle Patterson.

“I actually just try to focus on the details, all the little things,” Edwards said. “That's what's emphasized at this level. Doing every little thing as well as you can, every single rep you do.”

Edwards was a dedicated and compassionate mentor to Warren.

“I've been in the same situation,” Warren said from the practice field. “(An undrafted rookie) is going to come out here and make mistakes. I made my mistakes when I first got here. I told him how I dropped my first pass here in the end zone … and (a veteran) told me, 'Don't drop passes,' because he was an undrafted free agent, too. I took that to heart. You really can't go wrong. So I told him what I went through.”

Despite the odds against him, Edwards knows it's his burden to prove he belongs and is confident he can do that for the Steelers.

“I'm really just going to come out here and work and show what I can do,” Edwards said. “I'm trying to show them I can play on special teams and be an any-down back. I'll do whatever it takes.”

Chris Adamski is a TribLive reporter who has covered primarily the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2014 after covering Penn State football for two seasons. A native of Western Pennsylvania, he joined the Trib in 2012 after covering Pittsburgh sports for other media outlets for a decade. He can be reached at cadamski@triblive.com.

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