There's a story Cookie Edmunds likes to tell about her youngest son's first taste of football. She was watching Tremaine Edmunds toddle around along the sideline of a Pee-Wee game that featured his two older brothers. He loved the action, and after watching a few plays, he found his mother and offered a proclamation.
"I can't wait to play football," he told her, "so I can knock somebody's head off."
That proved to be a pretty accurate prediction for how Tremaine Edmunds' football career would unfold, from stardom in high school to a career at Virginia Tech that saw him emerge as one of the most fearsome defenders in the country.
Now, some 15 years after telling his mother of his plans for the future, Edmunds is about to reach the pinnacle -- a likely first-round draft pick and potentially the first linebacker off the board, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.
"It just shows you how long I've been working and how long I've been wanting this," Edmunds said. "Now, getting to this stage, it means so much to me."
Of course, the anecdote also captures the other part of what has defined Edmunds' career. His older brothers, Trey and Terrell, were the ones on the field that day. Years later, the three would be on the field together at Virginia Tech. The past two years, Terrell and Tremaine have been the anchors of the Hokies' defense together. (Terrell is a year older, but each had a year of eligibility remaining.)
And now, with Terrell projected as a midround selection, the odds are all three will be on an NFL roster when the new season begins this fall.
Even in a football-obsessed household, that seems a bit surreal, Tremaine said.
"It's really crazy," he said. "We've all dreamed of it, and now here we are. We're blessed and thankful for the opportunity, but we're going to compete. That's for sure."
Trey played running back for the Hokies and Maryland, and while he wasn't drafted out of college, he caught on with the Saints last season and played in all 16 games.
Terrell blossomed into one of the ACC's top safeties at Virginia Tech, racking up nearly 150 tackles over the past two seasons.
Then there's Tremaine, who at 6-foot-5, 253 pounds, emerged as a legitimate star, finishing last season with 109 tackles, including 14 for a loss.
"I always knew I was a big-time player, and I'm glad other people are seeing that, as well," Tremaine said.
That made Tremaine's decision to leave Virginia Tech early an easy one. Terrell said he was confident doing the same. And while both had some pangs of guilt, passing up one last chance to play together, they insist that didn't factor into their ultimate choice.
"Playing against your brothers at the highest level possible, going out and talking a bunch of junk to them, doing what you've done your entire life but doing it on a national stage, that's what it's all about." Terrell Edmunds
"He made his decision, I made mine," Tremaine said.
In the aftermath, they've worked closely during training, but that's where most of the camaraderie has ended. There has been no overlap with visits to different teams, and while they've relied on some advice from Trey, they haven't spent much time talking about the draft. It has been all business, which is a strange twist from how they grew up.
The past few months have been a whirlwind, and the brothers haven't seen nearly enough of each other. Tremaine was headed back to Virginia Tech's campus earlier this week to unwind a bit. They have plans, however, to all be in Arlington, Texas, together -- along with Cookie and their father, Ferrell, who also enjoyed a distinguished NFL career -- for the draft.
Tremaine's name will be called first, and the family is eager to celebrate together. Terrell said he's still hoping to upstage his brother with a fresher look; they've been shopping for the right suit. At some point in the weekend, Terrell's name will be called, too, and then things will be forever changed.
Odds are, there will be three Edmunds brothers on three different teams, and for a family that has always been close and always bonded over football, that's a big transition.
But it's also a big opportunity -- one they've been waiting a long time to enjoy.
"It's going to be crazy, but also an exciting moment," Terrell said. "Playing against your brothers at the highest level possible, going out and talking a bunch of junk to them, doing what you've done your entire life but doing it on a national stage, that's what it's all about."