Julian Edelman Used to Do Anything for Tom Brady’s Love

He even moved out to L.A. just in case Brady needed him.

It’s easy to forget now, but Julian Edelman wasn’t always a star. Before he was catching Super Bowl-winning touchdown passes and starring in Burgertyme, he was a no-name seventh-round draft pick who was just yearning for his star quarterback’s approval.

One of the themes of ESPN’s E:60 interview with Edelman, which aired Tuesday night, is his unheralded rise from a football afterthought to football alpha dog. Edelman threw 29 touchdown passes and rushed for 13 more as a senior at Woodside High School in Woodside, California, and yet, not a single college program showed an interest in him. He was forced to play in the junior ranks at the College of San Mateo for a year before transferring to Kent State, where he started at quarterback for three seasons. Though Edelman broke the school’s single-season record for total offense in his senior year, he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine. The Patriots took him with the 232nd pick in the 2009 draft, 33 spots behind where they selected Tom Brady nine years earlier.

Despite their similarities—Bay Area roots, late-round draft choices—the Edelman and Brady bromance took a while to develop. In the words of interviewer Jeremy Schaap, Edelman appeared to be Brady’s gopher rather than his peer early on.

“We sat next to each other in the locker room, and I kind of did anything for him. If he needed anything, I’d go get it for him,” Edelman said. “I heard him and some of the receivers would go out to L.A., and they would throw, so I move out to L.A. in the offseason to be near him just in case he needed me.”

Edelman says Brady only called him twice the first year he moved out there, but the phone calls eventually became more frequent. After Wes Welker departed for free agency in 2013, Edelman took his place as Brady’s go-to receiver, catching 105 passes that season. He’s on pace to reel in more than 100 receptions for the third consecutive year.

Edelman’s rise from anonymity to superstardom shows the power of perseverance. It can turn a converted quarterback who wasn’t even invited to the Combine into Brady’s favorite target, and also one of his best friends.