There are some people who just aren’t meant to become legends. Julian Edelman was one of those guys. He’s undersized, went to an underdog football school, didn’t even play wide receiver there, and wasn’t taken until the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Even after he was selected in the draft, it was going to be difficult for Edelman to make the team. Knowing he wouldn’t make the team as a quarterback, considering that some guy named Tom Brady had that spot locked up, he immediately had to learn to play wide receiver and do anything he could just to earn a spot on the roster. After a promising preseason as a punt returner and wide receiver, Edelman made the roster. This marked the beginning of a legendary career that included a Super Bowl MVP and three Super Bowl wins.
Edelman’s regular season statistics were inconsistent throughout his first four years in the league, but his career took off after he became a full-time starter in 2013. He played in all 16 regular season games just three times during his career, but averaged 100 catches and caught for over 1,000 receiving yards during each of those full seasons. Edelman also spent time as a cornerback early in his career, as well as showing his versatility by completing a few passes and throwing for a couple of touchdowns. Not only that, but Edelman proved himself to be a reliable punt returner for the majority of his career.
Many make the argument that Edelman’s regular season statistics aren’t worthy of the Hall of Fame, but when you take into account his injuries and couple that with his stellar playoff statistics, a strong case can be made that Edelman should have a spot in Canton.
Julian Edelman turned into an absolute beast during the playoffs. Despite missing two entire postseasons due to injury, he still ranks second, only behind Jerry Rice, in postseason receptions and receiving yards. During each of the Super Bowl runs that Edelman was a part of, he averaged over 100 yards per playoff game and helped the Patriots earn three rings.
He was named Super Bowl MVP in 2019 after catching 10 passes for 141 yards against the Rams, but his best moment came in 2017 during New England’s unbelievable comeback in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons. Having trailed 28-3 in the third quarter, the Patriots needed multiple miraculous plays to make a comeback possible. Down 28-20 with 2:28 left, Julian Edelman provided the most miraculous catch in Super Bowl history. Brady threw a deep pass across the middle, which was tipped into the air by Falcons’ cornerback Robert Alford. Edelman had to come back to the ball against his momentum, dive in between three defenders, and snatch the ball before it hit the turf. It was a critical moment of a drive that ended in a game-tying touchdown and eventual overtime victory.
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More than anything else, Julian Edelman embodied what it meant to be a Patriot. Tom Brady was a major catalyst of the Patriot Way, but Edelman was loyal and stuck with New England even after Brady left. His toughness, laser focus, determination, work ethic, and abundance of positive energy earned him his spot as an all-time Patriot.
Julian Edelman announced his retirement on Monday and leaves a void that the Patriots will find difficult to fill. Even though this past season was a disappointment, Edelman’s loyalty and dedication to the team never wavered. After suffering a career-ending knee injury that kept him out the rest of the season, he easily could have checked out. But that’s not the way he is.
Edelman remained engaged and active during the Patriots season. He deserved better than to go out that way, but his unlikely, legendary career will be remembered forever by Patriots fans.