On Monday, April 12, Patriots legend and Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman announced his retirement. Rumors spread after the Patriots terminated his contract, citing a failed physical. He officially made the announcement on social media with a video of him on the field in Gillette Stadium, where he made unforgettable memories for fans and teammates alike.
When asked about Edelman, his teammates and coaches didn’t first point out his reliable hands, versatility skillset, or clutch plays. They highlighted his personality, the chip on his shoulder, and his willingness to outwork every other player on the field. Tom Brady, his teammate for eleven years, said via Instagram that Edelman “never let anyone define [him] as a person or a player.” Former New England Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea described Edelman as a player who “doesn't take no for an answer when it comes to what he wants to achieve.” Perhaps the most on-the-nose comment came from the notoriously reticent Bill Belicheck, who said in a tribute post to #11 that “day in and day out, Julian was always the same: all out.”
He wasn’t supposed to make it this far. During his college career, playing professionally never seemed like an option. Edelman was an undersized quarterback who didn’t receive any scholarship offers out of high school. College coaches didn’t want a 5’10” quarterback. He ended up attending the College of San Mateo, a junior college, for a year. He transferred to Kent State, where they allowed him to transfer after one year because of his good grades. In his first year, the Golden Flashes’ record improved from 1-10 to 6-6.
Although it seemed improbable for Edelman to shine among the greats playing for the Patriots--including Randy Moss, Joey Galloway, and Wes Welker--he ended up being one of the longest-tenured players in franchise history. Known for his versatility, Edelman got his NFL start receiving punts. In his first preseason game, he returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown. Belicheck had him field passes, and he thrived. As a rookie, he caught 37 passes for 359 yards.
Edelman grew as a player and Patriot until he became one of Tom Brady’s go-to receivers. When Edelman was healthy, the Patriots’ offense thrived. When he was injured, there was an obvious hole in the offense, and the plays slowed down without Edelman there as a receiver. Although he was frequently injured—he always said that he would play “until the wheels came off”—he had unforgettable games. His entire career is filled with standout moments, from his breakout game in Houston in 2009, when he had ten receptions for 103 yards, to his game-saving catch in Super Bowl LI, where he made an impossible grab with three defenders on him to keep the Patriots’ comeback hopes alive.
Patriots Nation will miss Julian Edelman as more than just a player. He was a key part of the second half of the New England dynasty that won six Super Bowls. He is proof that a Super Bowl MVP doesn’t have to be bred from birth to go into the NFL. He wasn’t a player that came into the league with the most natural talent, but with enough hard work and an underdog mentality, greatness is attainable. He truly played until the wheels came off; in his career, he tore an ACL, had three concussions, fractured both feet, an arm, and a hand, separated a shoulder, and suffered countless bruises and sprains. His mentality was perfect for the toughness of New England, and Patriot Nation will always love him for it.