Atlanta Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards wins big on the field, and with the ladies. The 27-year-old heartthrob, and former Minnesota Viking, signed a $30 million free agent contract with the team when the NFL lockout ended earlier this year and made a speedy recovery from knee-surgery, landing him right back where his female fans want to see him – on the field.

When steamy shirtless shots from Edward’s upcoming 2012 calendar hit the web in October, it sent his female fans into a frenzy, quickly making the top Google search on him at that time, “Does Ray Edwards have a girlfriend?” Queries about his martial status also flooded the blogosphere and message boards. Nope, Ray’s not married, just yet, but he is looking for love.

We sat down with the athlete, who also boxes and models in his free time, to find out what type of woman knocks him off his feet, the mistakes men think women make far too often, and much more.

Ladies, grab a pen and paper. You’re going to want to take notes on this one.

ESSENCE.COM: Men say they often feel misunderstood when it comes to dating and relationships. What is it that you think women don’t really get about men?
RAY EDWARDS: That we’re not looking to be impressed every time we look up. If we don’t like you, we definitely just won’t call you or go on a date with you. Everybody’s different, but I say, just be down to earth and be you. At the end of the day that’s all you can be. I know sometimes people say, well, hey, you have to bring out your representative. But, at the end of the day that stuff wears off and then who are you really underneath? Be yourself and if yourself is this stuck up person who has to go to fancy restaurants every day and go out to eat all the time and stuff like that, well, I’m not the man for you.

ESSENCE.COM: What are some common mistakes women make with men they may not realize they’re making?
EDWARDS: Sometimes it’s just being too needy. When they’re like, “I don’t need anybody. I’m going to be alright by myself.” Everybody needs somebody. We wouldn’t have been made as men and women if we didn’t need each other. Guys do the same thing. They say, “Oh no, I don’t need a girl.” Yeah, that sleeping around stuff will get old — unless you’re just that shallow of a person.

Definitely being on the phone when you’re trying to get to know her is another one — that’s definitely a deal breaker right there — or bringing up old boyfriends. Don’t say, “You remind me of such and such.” Also, making plans for the future on our first date. Don’t start planning our future that fast.

ESSENCE.COM: What are some of your instant deal breakers?
EDWARDS: When a woman is not humble. I’m an athlete, you know, so people will come up to me and ask me for an autograph. A woman might go, “Why won’t they just leave you alone?” If it wasn’t for [my fans] I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. If she’s not humble, or not a fan of God, that’s no good. I met a woman once who said, “Oh I don’t really believe in God.” She was cute, but not that cute. Anything in life can be taken away from you just that quick. If it can be given, it can be taken away. A woman needs to be humble and always willing to help others.

I hate a judgmental woman. A woman who always has something to say about what I’m doing, or what someone else is doing. You don’t know that person. You don’t know their life. You don’t know their history. You know nothing about them, but you’re so quick to judge. That’s not a good thing.

ESSENCE.COM: Would you hold it against a woman if she has dated someone you know?
EDWARDS: It’s not a deal breaker for me. I feel one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You can’t have dated 60 guys I know, but if you’ve dated one, you know, that’s cool.

ESSENCE.COM: What if she brings up the “L word” or marriage first?
EDWARDS: It depends on what part of the relationship you’re at. If it’s a first date and you’re talking marriage, eh, I don’t know. I’m smooth, but I’m not that smooth. Marriage is always the ultimate key. If you guys are really feeling each other, of course she’s going to bring it up because she wants to know if she’s wasting her time or not. A lot of men don’t want to be married. I don’t know why, but some just don’t want to be married. They think it’s cool to just be boyfriend and girlfriend, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to go.

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