Foxboro Forever: Thanks For Everything, Jules


Courtesy of Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

Foxboro Forever: Thanks For Everything, Jules

Brendan Donoghue, Staff Writer

Coming out of halftime of Super Bowl LI, Julian Edelman placed his helmet on the shelf behind the New England Patriots bench and took a seat next to quarterback Tom Brady. With the second half moments away, New England fans across the country were demoralized and – if they are being honest – I would venture to guess that most of the players were too. Down 21-3, the Patriots had played perhaps their worst half of the season on the biggest stage. Slightly turning his head towards Brady, but never looking away from the field, Edelman predicted how he hoped the second half would go: “Let’s go baby. It’s gonna be a helluva story.” It just so happened that Edelman’s prediction came true. Mounting the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, the Patriots went on to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 and distinguish themselves yet again as the NFL’s cream of the crop. With Edelman announcing his retirement from the National Football League via social media on Monday, April 12th 2021, his Super Bowl prediction takes on a whole new meaning. Edelman’s career was, simply put, a helluva story.

 Drafted in the 7th Round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, Julian Edelman was Kent State University’s scrappy starting quarterback. A three year starter at the position, Edelman had never played a snap at wide receiver before joining the Patriots. With Tom Brady under center and in the prime of his career, Edelman demonstrated his value on special teams (and even defense a few times) ultimately winding up at wide receiver. 12 years, three Super Bowl Championships, and one Super Bowl MVP later, Edelman walks away from the game one of the most successful postseason players in NFL history, and one of the most beloved Patriots players to ever put on the uniform. 

 A few months ago, I wrote a similar article for The Villanovan commemorating Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia after news of his retirement earlier this year. If there was ever a Pedroia-equivalent in Boston’s storied sports culture, it was Edelman. Nicknamed “the Squirrel” due his elusiveness, Edelman, like Pedroia, connected with his fans and his adopted city in a way few professional athletes are ever able to do. Whether it was the iconic “double pass” in the 2014 Divisional Playoff Game, or his game-winning touchdown catch in Super Bowl XLIX, or his miraculous shoestring catch in Super Bowl LI that kept the comeback alive (still not sure how he managed that one), or his MVP performance in Super Bowl LIII, Julian Edelman represented the New England Patriots on the biggest stages in a way every fan should be proud of: show up, make no excuses, execute, celebrate, and then do it again.  

 When NFL fans think of the New England Patriots dynasty, they will undoubtedly think of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and for good reason. But as Brady’s own wife will tell you, he cannot throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. Brady’s success was intricately tied to his receivers, and he always seemed to have a unique connection with them. Early in his career it was Troy Brown and Deion Branch, during his record-setting 50 touchdown season it was Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The tail end of Brady’s Patriots tenure was marked by connections to Rob Gronkwoski and Julian Edelman. Gronkwoski was always good for the highlight-reel play, reeling in passes with one hand or shoving would-be tacklers out of the way as he barreled towards the end zone. When Brady needed a surefire connection in a big spot, however, it was Edelman’s number that was always called. 3rd down? 4th down? Last drive of the game? Brady to Edelman. You could set your watch to it. Defenses knew it, the referees knew it, everyone in the stadium and watching at home knew it, but it never seemed to matter. Number 12 to number 11 in the biggest spots on the biggest stages.

It has been a privilege to grow up a Patriots fan. Some of the greatest memories I have from my young adult life involve watching the Patriots compete in the NFL playoffs year in and year out. Julian Edelman was a cornerstone of those playoff runs and championship teams. Nothing I could write could possibly capture what he meant to me, to my friends and family, to the city of Boston, and to the entire region of New England. As a teenager, I followed his workout routine, read his memoir, watched his documentary, and watched every single game. He was the kind of player who made the type of plays that you wind up telling your kids about. One helluva career.