JULIAN EDELMAN

Written By: Robert Cocuzzo | Photography By: Chiun-Kai Shih

Patriots star receiver catches some R&R on Nantucket.

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.17.13 AMYou’d be hard-pressed to find a more electrifying player in the National Football League than Patriots star receiver Julian Edelman. At just 5’10” and 198 pounds, Edelman epitomizes the kind of gritty, underdog athletes that New Englanders have come to love. Squeezing out clutch first downs and making miraculous catches when the game is on the line, Edelman has become Tom Brady’s most trusted target. Rewind to the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX when the Patriots were down by ten with eleven minutes to play to see why they call him “Incredible-man.” On third and long, Edelman exploded off the line, made a catch down the middle, took a bone-rattling hit, and then stayed on his feet for the first down. Nine minutes later, he caught the game-winning touchdown and cemented his legacy in New England sports lore.

Although he says hard work is his MO, even Edelman takes some R&R in the offseason, which brought him to Nantucket earlier this summer. On Memorial Day weekend, he made a widely publicized trip to the island with none other than fellow Patriots receiver Rob Gronkowski. N Magazine spoke with Julian Edelman just before the final ruling was made on Tom Brady’s Deflategate appeal. Given the situation’s controversial nature, Edelman opted not to discuss Brady’s case or the future of his season, but rather shared his thoughts on the island, his career as a Patriot, and what it takes to make it to the pros.

N MAGAZINE: Tell us about your trip to the island?
EDELMAN: I got to helicopter over and see the views of the island and really fell in love with it. It’s a cool little getaway. I love the cobblestone streets, the beautiful little shops. We went to the Cisco Brewery, and I took a tour of the brewery and met some really unbelievable people there who were very accommodating. It’s like a little village, which I had never experienced. Nantucket is just a place to get away and have fun.

N MAGAZINE: Could you see yourself owning a home here?
EDELMAN: Yes, potentially. The island definitely has this cool character to it. There’s a lot of history there, and you really feel like you can get away from New England, but you’re still in New England. I could definitely see myself maybe investing in a home there down the road.

N MAGAZINE: Nantucket has a strong football culture, but for many young players the thought of making it to the pros from this tiny island can seem improbable. Given your own improbable rise in the game, what advice would you give Nantucket’s young, up-and-coming players?
EDELMAN: Enjoy the process. If you have some talent, it will be found if you really work your tail off and ignore the noise. Don’t believe the hype that island players can’t make it. Chase your dream. Football is a microcosm of life. What you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it. For the little chance that anyone does have, I can tell you right now the people that have made it, they were no slouch. Work has to be put in.

N MAGAZINE: Coach Belichick is a longtime summer resident of the island. How has he helped you fulfill your potential on the field?
EDELMAN: Coach Belichick is the ultimate teacher not in just football, but in life and how to handle your life. It’s all about fundamentals — he preaches that. It’s all about preparation, discipline, accountability, consistency. Through my years playing under coach Belichick, you had to display those type of characteristics to play. It’s a brutally honest place to play, but if you do what the coaches ask you to do in their system, that’s usually when you succeed.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 4.41.02 PMN MAGAZINE: How has Tom Brady fit into that system and improved you as a player?
EDELMAN: You don’t win four Super Bowls by accident. You don’t do it by any luck. Everything that Tom Brady has gotten in his life, he has earned. He’s one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around. The young kids think that Tom Brady gets up and is able to execute an offense at such a high level just because he’s Tom Brady. Well that’s very incorrect. That man works with a quarterback coach. He’ll work with a body coach. Everything is around football and his family. That’s why he’s been successful. I’ve been fortunate enough to play with a guy like him and learn how to be a professional.

N MAGAZINE: You’re universally respected for just how tough you are on the field. When you take a big hit, are you just hardwired to pop up like you so often do?
EDELMAN: I’ve been fortunate and blessed enough to be able to take those kind of [hits] and brush them off. They don’t always feel good. But if you’re getting tattooed or laid out by a guy who gave his absolute all to try and knock you out or put you down, and you get up right away and show him that it really didn’t hurt that much — even when it possibly did — it deflates a man psychologically. I guess it’s a mindset, a mentality. It fires me up. Sometimes you get your clock cleaned and you just have to deal with it and focus on the next upcoming play.

N MAGAZINE: How have you seen this kind of toughness in New England?
EDELMAN: We can all think about the Boston Marathon bombing and think about how tough the city was after that. On that tragic day, you saw a bunch of people come together and basically say we’re going to do what we’re going to do, and we live our life the way we want to live our life. That’s symbolic of this city.

N MAGAZINE: What lessons are you taking from last season into this upcoming season?
EDELMAN: Everything that happened in the past is in the past. As a player and a member of the team, you just worry and focus on what you have to do to prepare yourself physically, mentally and spiritually for the upcoming season.

N MAGAZINE: What’s the atmosphere in the locker room when you’re in the midst of an undefeated streak like last year?
EDELMAN: I can’t speak for other players, but when it comes to myself and how I prepare when you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short memory. Every game is valuable in the National Football League. There’s no weeks off. You can’t have a three game slump. It’s not like any other sport where you can afford to have that.

N MAGAZINE: Looking at the league as a whole, as they’ve made efforts to make the game safer, how do you think that’s impacting the game, especially for someone like you who plays with such physicality?
EDELMAN: You can’t really worry about what they’re trying to do. What you do have to do is learn the rules and abide by them. It’s always nice to have the game a little safer, but that’s the NFL’s job — that’s not my job to worry about. Those are topics you really don’t worry about or get into much thought about.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 4.40.51 PMN MAGAZINE: This is down the line here, but do you have any thoughts about what you’d like to do after football?
EDELMAN: I don’t like looking too far into the future. Of course, you somewhat have to, but I have a lot on my plate right now with my job as a football player. I’m very fortunate and blessed to have that opportunity and I’m going to try to take advantage of all the opportunity that I can. It’s something that I’ve done my whole life. I never knew what the future was going to be, but as long as I kept my heart, mind and soul into the matter at hand, it’s always steered me in the right direction.

N MAGAZINE: Will we be seeing you again on Nantucket?
EDELMAN: I definitely want to go back. It was a great experience. I wasn’t there long enough. I definitely want to go down there and explore. You think of all the history, and that’s what the Cape and the islands are all about. I’m very excited to come back.

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