Julian Edelman's toughness was his most unforgettable trait


Julian Edelman delivered many unforgettable postseason moments in his illustrious career: The Catch against Atlanta; his game-tying 51-yard touchdown pass against Baltimore; every crucial reception during his Super Bowl MVP performance. But one play defines his incredible run of greatness more than any other. In addition to being the best in the clutch, he was so damn tough.

Both of those attributes converged brilliantly and brutally with 10:52 remaining in Super Bowl XLIX. Faced with a 3rd-and-14, Tom Brady stepped up in the pocket and zinged the ball to Edelman, who was immediately leveled by Kam Chancellor. The hit appeared to reverberate Edelman’s skull, but he kept on running.

Edelman never missed an offensive play, finishing the game with nine receptions for 109 yards, along with the game-winning score. It was his first of six 100-yard playoff performances.

"You have so many teammates that admired your work ethic and will to win, and I am at the top of the list because when I was down and feeling sorry for myself at times, you were right there to pick me up," Brady wrote in his tribute to Edelman on Instagram. “You were as tough as could be and I love you for all that you did to make our teams as great as they could possibly be.”

Edelman sacrificed his body for the Patriots Dynasty. He took bone-crushing hits and went under the knife multiple times, including when he tore his ACL in 2017. At 32 years old, his NFL career could’ve been over. Instead, he came back and caught 74 passes in 12 games (he missed the first four due to a PED suspension), and wound up winning Super Bowl MVP honors. Everybody knew Brady was going to throw Edelman the ball, and yet, neither the Rams nor Chiefs could stop him. Edelman tallied 17 catches for 237 yards in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl. It was an awesome performance.

The following season, Edelman was arguably more important to Brady than ever before. With the offense bereft of skill players, he was Brady’s only option. Every Sunday, Edelman took an absolute beating. And yet, he still finished with 100 catches and 1,117 yards — his most ever.

Even with Cam Newton under center, it seemed like Edelman was on his way to a repeat performance in 2020, catching eight balls for a career-high 179 yards against Seattle in Week 2. But then a knee injury took him out of action. Edelman played his last game on Oct. 25, when his left knee locked against the 49ers.

“Nothing in my career has ever come easy,” Edelman says in his heartfelt (and exceptionally well-produced) retirement video. “And no surprise, this isn’t going to be easy, either. I’ve always said I’m going to go until the wheels come off. And, they finally have fallen off.”

With three Super Bowl rings and an indelible spot in NFL history — never mind Patriots lore — Edelman retires with nothing left to prove. The seventh-round pick from Kent State turned himself into Brady’s favorite target, and retires with the second-most postseason receiving yards ever, only trailing Jerry Rice.

With his proclivity for going over the middle of the field, and subsequently getting walloped, Edelman’s football career was always on borrowed time. We’re lucky we got to watch him for as long as we did.

Almost every week, it seemed like Edelman’s career could’ve ended. And each time, he kept getting back up.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA Today Sports