As much as most of us saw this coming, it still hurts to see Julian Edelman go. If you’re not a Patriots fan then chances are you hate this guy for many of the reasons I love him, and honestly that brings a smile to my face. But Julian Edelman is literally the definition of someone that deserves the respect of sports fans everywhere. The type of success story that Edelman has is rare, and it’s why we love sports.
First off, 7th round draft picks often don’t make team's rosters, let alone an impact. And the vast majority of them don’t last 12 years in the NFL, contributing on championship caliber teams. This is before you factor in that he‘s only 5’11 and played quarterback in college. He didn’t start returning punts, running routes or catching passes until the pros and he succeeded. The odds of him lasting this long as a wide receiver were astronomical. The odds of him being that successful? That kind of shit just doesn’t happen.
In pre-draft scouting reports one of Edelman’s coaches at Kent State described him as the most competitive guy he’d ever coached, and Edelman’s competitive nature was on display every single snap of his career. First making his name on the Patriots by exploding on punt returns, it wasn’t long before Edelman started filling in wherever he could. Even playing cornerback for the entire playoffs en route to his first Super Bowl appearance. In the 2014 divisional round against the Ravens not only did Edelman throw a go ahead touchdown late but when five Ravens dove on a fumble at a key moment in the game, so did Edelman. And after 24 seconds, outnumbered five to one, the 5’11 former Kent State quarterback, came out with the ball.
Edelman was known for taking hits over the middle of the field and bouncing right back up to talk trash. The most memorable example of this came in Super Bowl 49 where he got absolutely popped by Kam Chancellor and didn't miss a beat. A lot of players might have tapped out of the game after a hit like that, but not Edelman. He stayed in the game to catch the game winning touchdown with two minutes left to play. Clutch plays were not only what Edelman did best, they’re something he did better than pretty much anyone else to ever come before him. Time after time, when the Patriots needed a play, any play, Edelman made it. In Super Bowl 52 while trying to complete the greatest comeback in sports history, Brady fired one over the middle into coverage to Edelman. The ball was tipped, it should have been picked, it definitely should not have been caught... but it was, because Julian Edelman refused to quit on the play.
In the 2018 AFC Championship, on the road, in overtime, the Patriots were faced with two consecutive 3rd and 10‘s. Both times Tony Romo told the whole world they were going to Edelman over the middle. You could see it coming from a mile away but yet the Chiefs couldn’t stop him. Two weeks later in the Super Bowl, Marcus Peters and the Rams secondary couldn’t stop him either. Edelman put on a route running clinic, racking up 141 yards on 10 catches and taking home the Super Bowl MVP award. He retires now second all time in playoff receptions and receiving yards, trailing only Jerry Rice.
Whether or not you like the Patriots, Julian Edelman has a success story that very few others can compare to. He had a competitive drive that we should all strive to have and a refusal to quit that we should all admire. The story of the undersized, scrappy Kent State quarterback going down as one of the most prolific playoff performers in NFL history is everything that’s great about sports.
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