Source: Sports Illustrated

Story of Strive: Julian Edelman and the Art of Bouncing Back

With the news of Julian Edelman suffering a torn anterior cruciate (ACL) in his right knee during a game with Detroit Lions, New England Patriots might have a tough season ahead. However, Edelman is a born fighter who can overcome greatest of odds and make his presence count. Like he has done so often, expect Edelman to come back even stronger.

The Early Years

Julian Edelman was born in Redwood City, California in 1986. Julian is the middle child having an elder brother and younger sister. Right from his childhood, his father — a hard-grafting car mechanic and part-time football coach — mentored him to play football. His father, Frank Edelman, inculcated in his kids a strong work ethic and honesty in their efforts. His father taught Julian Edelman to be focused, serious, and hard working to achieve his goals. To this day, Edelman credits his father for all his success. On the other hand, Julian had a fun-loving mom, Angela Edelman, who ensured Julian develop a lighter, fun side to his charismatic personality.

Love of Football

Edelman was hooked on football right from childhood. He quickly became the star quarterback at his school, Woodside High School. At Kent State University, he majored in Business Management. In addition, he was also the mainstay of the University’s football team, the Golden Flashes. Displaying his superior football skills nurtured through hard work, Edelman was the team’s leading rusher and passer.

Battling the Naysayers

He once told his junior college professor about his long-cherished dream of playing in the NFL. The professor advised him to have realistic goals, an advice that would mock her a few years later. Edelman recently tweeted an apology letter from the professor. He knew what he wanted, and made sure no discouragement brought him down.

In 2009, Edelman was drafted by the New England Patriots in the seventh round of the NFL draft. Edelman is 5’10”, not an impressive height by NFL standards. In fact, there were doubters and naysayers who opined that he was too short to ever succeed in NFL. Today, with Edelman arguably the best wide receiver and punt returner in the game, it’s more than a fitting reply.

Overcoming Injuries to Set to New Records

In his very first year, he suffered an ankle injury, broke his arm, and experienced other injuries. Edelman quickly recovered from the injuries on account of his determination to succeed and impressed the public with his strong performance after the recovery. At the end of the regular season, Edelman had 37 receptions, one touchdown, and 6 punt returns. He continued his track record in postseason, becoming the first rookie to score two receiving touchdowns in one postseason game since David Sloan.

The year 2010 saw Edelman break some long-held records. That includes longest punt return in Patriots history, first punt return touchdown by a Patriot since 2001, and a franchise record of averaging 15.3 yards per return. In 2011, he won NFL’s “Hardest Working Man” in week 12. He also helped Patriots win the AFC Championship. Since AFL-NFL merger, Edelman became the first player with a unique record of a receiving touchdown as well as a return touchdown in consecutive games.

Towards the end of 2012 season, he had a serious injury and his contract was about to expire. Things didn’t look promising for young Edelman, but he didn’t give up; he kept pushing himself. During this uncertain times, Edelman displayed his innovative, out-of-the-box thinking and decided to use social media and branding to bolster his personal brand.

Trailblazing Performances

Keeping his expectation low but his morale and work regimen high, Edelman earned a four-year contract for $17 million. Edelman was back and how. In 2013, he became a free agent. The year witnessed him become only the third player in Patriots’ history to catch more than 100 passes in a single season. From a serious injury to being supremely fit, he played all of Patriots’ 16 games. In a famous game against the Baltimore Ravens, Edelman made history with the longest touchdown pass thrown by a non-quarterback player in NFL playoff history. He went on to exhibit even more impressive performances in the years to come. And old records just kept falling.

Winning Super Bowl

Edelman’s stock kept rising with impressive records through the years. 2015 and 2017 saw New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl, and Edelman playing a large part in both the championship wins. In fact, his performance in 2017 final against the Atlanta Falcons made him nothing short of a legend. Edelman took one of the greatest catches in probably the most breathtaking comebacks ever in the Super Bowl history. Patriots were trailing the Falcons 28–9 to overcome in the fourth quarter to emerge champions by winning 34–28.

His on-field agility and swiftness and unbelievable receiving skills have earned him nicknames such as “Minitron” and “The Energizer Bunny.” The one that best describes him, however, is “The Squirrel,” attributing to his amazing speed and blink-and-you-miss turns. Once when asked about this nickname, he replied in jest, “I’m out there trying to find nuts.”

Julian Edelman: A Man of Multiple Talents

Fans have loved his social media interactions by lapping up what Edelman offers on Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube. He has also done cameos in hit TV shows Entourage and Badlers, wrote scripts and pitched ideas for TV shows. Edelman has also written books. He even has a fashion label, JE11. As of today, Edelman has more than two-million followers on Facebook and Twitter. His first published book, “Flying High” is a tale of perseverance, passion, and acorns, and it depicts the values he lives by. Interestingly, the children’s book is a tale of a squirrel, Jules who overcomes his physical limitations by his sheer hard work. No doubt, the book borrows a lot from Julian’s own life story. Julian hopes the book teaches the kids the value of striving despite the odds.

In his own words, “I think I hate losing more than I love winning.”

Despite all the success, Julian Edelman is grounded and humble. He loves his parents and family and credits his father with his success.

Julian Edelman’s sheer hard work and perseverance have made him one of the greatest players in NFL today. Despite people doubting his abilities and raising doubts, Edelman strived for excellence and showed hard work pays. How are you striving? Sign up to be notified when the Strive book becomes available.