Goodbye, JE11, A Patriot Unlike Any Other
What is there to say about Julian Edelman? While I attempt to find the proper words, let's begin by checking in with the man who coached him during his 12 years in Foxborough.
"By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career - wins, championships, production - Julian has it all," said Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick.
"Few players can match Julian's achievements, period, but considering his professional trajectory and longevity, the group is even more select. It is historic. This is a tribute to his legendary competitiveness, mental and physical toughness and will to succeed. Day in and day out, Julian was always the same: all out. Then, in the biggest games and moments, with championships at stake, he reached even greater heights and delivered some of his best, most thrilling performances...Julian Edelman is the ultimate competitor and it was a privilege to coach him."
Edelman's professional trajectory, as Belichick notes, is truly historic. Rattle off the list of late-round draft picks that mastered their craft. Certainly you can think of one - the man who threw JE11 the ball for 11 of his 12 seasons as a Patriot.
But Brady is different. Yes, he started from nowhere and molded himself into the greatest to ever play. But while doing so, Brady blasted into a stratosphere few reach, gaining almost deity status during his two decades in New England. He relinquished all relatability to the common man. It's the way it had to be. You don't win seven Super Bowls, become an international super star and marry the most famous model in history and still seem like the guy you see throwing back a few brews at the local pub (in-non COVID times).
Yet, that's what Edelman was able to accomplish. Despite starring in the biggest games, despite winning Super Bowl MVP, Edelman maintained an everyman quality that endeared him with the blue collar mentality of the region he represented every Sunday. He never lost that chip on his shoulder of being the 7th round QB from bottom-half mid-major Kent State that had to scrap and claw just to make the Patriots out of training camp in 2009.
That was the beauty of Edelman. Brady was the GOAT. Gronk had somewhere between the strength of a rhinoceros and the Incredible Hulk. Randy Moss was the wide receiver sculpted in the image of God and Belichick, the genius mastermind who knows what you're thinking before you do.
But there was Jules, the guy every member of Patriots Nation could see a bit of themselves in. Whether it was his hardworking, fiery personality or his goofy off-the-field persona, Edelman was all of us. Just faster, stronger, tougher and more determined than you, I, or anyone else reading this.
He earned the respect of fans, teammates and opponents through sheer resolve for one cause - victory. Edelman was a cornerstone in the Patriots' second dynasty, doing whatever the team needed of him. Literally, whatever. Catching, blocking, rushing, returning, passing and even covering and tackling (remember his brief spell as a 2-way cornerback?).
A future Patriot Hall of Famer, Edelman's Canton residency hinges on whether the Pro Football HOF voters value his place as one of the greatest postseason performers of all-time, regardless of position. His place in franchise history is set in stone and has been for some time. A fan favorite, a selfless leader and one of the greatest to ever wear a Patriots' uniform.
Julian, from all of us here in Patriots Nation,