COLUMN: A look back at Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman’s legacy

"Julian Edelman" by Jeffrey Beall is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

By Sravan Gannavarapu
Boston University News Service

BOSTON — After twelve seasons, three Super Bowl championships and over 6,800 receiving yards, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman retired from the National Football League this week. 

Edelman posted a farewell video on his Twitter account to New England Patriots fans. These fans embraced him since he began his NFL career in 2009.

Former Patriot players, including quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, also paid tribute to their former teammate who won three Super Bowls alongside them. 

Edelman had a successful career despite his rocky start. After graduating high school, he was not highly recruited and played quarterback for the Kent State Golden Flashes. 

In the 2009 NFL Draft, Edelman was taken as a wide receiver with the 232nd overall pick. As a rookie, he found himself behind future Hall-of-Famer Randy Moss and Wes Welker on the wide receiver depth chart.

Eventually, Edelman found his way onto the roster by excelling on special teams, returning kickoffs and punt returns.

In 2011, Edelman and the Patriots found themselves in the Super Bowl but fell to the New York Giants 21-17.

After the 2013 season concluded, Edelman became a starter for the 2014 season. The Patriots finished the regular season with a 12-4 record and advanced to Super Bowl XLIX against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. Edelman caught the game-winning touchdown pass, awarding New England with their long-awaited fourth Super Bowl championship. 

Edelman’s greatest moment came two years later in Super Bowl LI in 2016. Late in the third quarter, the Patriots found themselves trailing 28-3 to the Atlanta Falcons. Headlined by one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history, the Patriots went on to erase a 25-point deficit and win 34-28 in overtime. 

Edelman would miss the following season with a torn ACL as New England made it to Super Bowl LII and fell short to the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only this, but at the start of the 2018 season, Edelman was suspended four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy

Following his return, he helped lead New England once again to the playoffs and Super Bowl LIII, where his ten catches for 141 yards helped New England defeat the Los Angeles Rams for their sixth championship. 

As a result of his performance, Edelman was named the game’s most valuable player. In addition, Edelman became the first wide receiver to achieve that distinction since Santonio Holmes of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Holmes earned the award ten years prior. Edelman was the first Patriots wide receiver to win the award since Deion Branch in Super Bowl XXXIX. 

As he leaves the NFL, Edelman holds several NFL postseason records — including the second-most receptions and second-most receiving yards in the postseason, second only to Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. 

While Edelman will likely not be donning a gold jacket due to his regular-season statistics, he will still go down as one of the great drafts steals in NFL history. 

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