Julian Edelman has spent the week preparing to face the 49ers.
Clearly, though, he’s spent a lifetime loving the team.
A Bay Area native, Edelman grew up rooting for the 49ers with a passion. His dogs were named Dwight and Montana, paying homage to The Catch made on Joe Montana’s pass to Dwight Clark. He played for a 49ers team that won a “couple Super Bowls” early in his youth football career. He even had San Francisco’s Jerry Rice – the only guy Edelman now trails for most postseason receptions and receiving yards – as a family friend during his high school years.
Though he’s now one of the longest tenured players and face of the Patriots franchise these days, Edelman reminisced about his love for the 49ers during his Friday afternoon video call with New England reporters.
“A lot of great memories of mine were growing up and supporting and loving the San Francisco 49ers,” Edelman explained. “Then playing for the Redwood City 49ers, going out and winning a couple Super Bowls and really developing my love of this game in the beginning part of me playing football was for a 49er team. It’s definitely pretty cool to be able to play them. This isn’t my first time, but it’s always a pretty special kind of game just because all my friends back home, my family we were all diehard Niners fans. Any time you get to see that red and gold, it’s special to us. It’s a pretty cool experience. I’m looking forward to doing it and going out and getting to play against a very good 49ers football team.”
Edelman then made it clear that Rice was a major influence on his development as an athlete, football player and, maybe most importantly, guy who wasn’t afraid to put the work in to find success on the field.
“I would definitely say Jerry Rice has been a huge inspiration on me as a football player and work ethic, him and my father,” Edelman said. “Growing up in Redwood City they had Edgewood Park and there was Jerry Rice Hill. It was the folk lore. It was known that Jerry Rice used to go out and run that hill. And everyone knew about his work ethic, him going out and catching bricks and outworking people and never taking time off and really taking his craft seriously. Growing up around his family, he was so busy with football, it wasn’t anything like me being able to break down or ask any questions, I was too terrified of him because he was the GOAT. He was a god in our area. But he’s definitely been an inspiration for his work ethic and how seriously he took his craft.
“I think Jerry kind of was a pioneer for the professional athlete of nowadays. Now everyone is so specialized in training and this and dieticians and their craft. Jerry was doing that…Mr. Rice was doing that in the ‘80s before it was so popularized like it is now. He’s been a huge inspiration to me.”
Edelman will take that inspiration with him to the Gillette Stadium turf on Sunday as the Patriots look to snap a two-game losing streak in a battle with Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers.