Julian Edelman is an unlikely Number One wide receiver for history’s most prolific offense. He was a 7th round draft pick out of Kent State, where he spent three years as a quarterback. Before that, he played a year of junior college football at the College of San Mateo.
His small stature meant that he was consistently overlooked and underrated. Despite his immense success as a football player, going all the way back to a Pop Warner National Championship, he has amassed more doubters than his three Super Bowl rings.
His consistent work ethic and commitment to excellence have some of these naysayers changing their tones.
In 2017, an old teacher recounted a time when she doubted his goals of reaching the NFL. You see, Edelman was simply an undersized athlete playing at a junior college. But what she didn’t see or know, was a relentless passion for competing and a commitment to getting better that could possibly only be rivaled by Tom Brady, the Hall of Fame QB that throws him the ball.
Edelman’s Twitter post would say: set your goals high. do whatever it takes to achieve them. #motivation
June 14, 2017
I’m not sure you’ll remember me: I was your teacher for your English 100 class at CSM in the spring of 2006. I’ve been wanting to write to you for, oh, what seems like a thousand years, to apologize to you for a flippant comment I made to you that semester. you may not even remember it, but I’ve felt bad about it for years. You had made some comment about “going to the league,” and I said something about setting realistic goals, about how few people successfully enter the ranks of the professional athlete, blah, blah, blah. I don’t think it fazed you, frankly, but whenever I think back on it, I feel terrible, not because you proved me wrong, but because I stupidly voiced an uneducated opinion that implied I had distain for your passion for the game. I think it was early in the semester before I knew you, but how could I have ever doubted your tenacity and grit is beyond me! Again, I doubt you’ve ever thought about it twice, but even so, I am sorry for wedging my foot so firmly in my mouth that day.
The post was a nice segway to his book: Relentless.
As he recounts his life, many of the things that his teacher would later observe were repeated over and over again: work ethic, persistence, effort, and perseverance.
Coming into the league with a future Hall of Famer throwing him the ball, led by a future Hall of Famer calling the plays, he buried his doubt in mountains and mountains of work.
Unsure of whether he would even make the team playing behind greats like Randy Moss and Wes Welker, he aimed to add immense value as a specialist on special teams. Within this role, he carved out a niche as a solid supporting team player.
Still, he continued to work on his skills as a wide receiver. After his first season, he even moved to LA in the offseason to be near Brady with slim hopes that he would call him for impromptu practice sessions.
Over time he developed into the kind of player that the Patriots value above all else: one that consistently wins, never complains, and always evolves. Some of the game’s best players were traded away when they failed to deliver on these traits.
Leading up to Kent State’s pro day (he wasn’t invited to the combine), he recounts his daily routine:
I had a phobia about being late or underprepared, so I’d be in bed by 9 p.m. My routine: Up at 5 a.m., eat breakfast and leave at 5:45. Work out at Speed and Strength from 6:30 to 11:00. Then I’d go back to Kent and have someone punt to me. At night, before I went to class, I’d go to the indoor track facility and catch about four hundred balls. Why? Because I was so far behind.
Edelman sends a clear message with this memoir: outwork.
In Pursuit of Excellence