New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman retired on Monday.
Bill Belichick released a gushing statement about Edelman, calling him the "ultimate competitor."
Edelman has a legacy of being tough, competitive, and playing his best in the biggest games.
Veteran New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman announced his retirement on Monday and received gushing praise from head coach Bill Belichick.
Edelman, 33, played all 11 of his seasons with the Patriots, becoming a franchise icon along the way for his toughness and knack for making big plays in big games.
In a statement, Belichick praised Edelman as "the ultimate competitor" and a "privilege" to coach.
"By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career - wins, championships, production - Julian has it all," Belichick said. "Few players can match Julian's achievements, period, but considering his professional trajectory and longevity, the group is even more select. It is historic. This is a tribute to his legendary competitiveness, mental and physical toughness, and will to excel."
Belichick said that Edelman could elevate his game for the biggest moments.
"Day in and day out, Julian was always the same: all out. Then, in the biggest games and moments, with championships at stake, he reached even greater heights and delivered some of his best, most thrilling performances."
Belichick added that he appreciated Edelman's ability to do everything on the field.
"For all Julian did for our team, what I may appreciate the most is he was the quintessential throwback player. He could, and did, do everything - catch, run, throw, block, return, cover and tackle - all with an edge and attitude that would not allow him to fail under any circumstance.
"Julian Edelman is the ultimate competitor and it was a privilege to coach him."
Belichick had released statements when players like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski left the Patriots or retired. His message for Edelman clearly has some sincerity to it and puts the receiver in elite territory.
Edelman has a towering, unique legacy with the Patriots
Edelman's Hall of Fame candidacy has sparked heated debates in the NFL world in recent years.
On the one hand, Edelman had modest regular-season stats. He topped 1,000 receiving yards just three times, never averaged more than 70 yards per game, and had just 36 career receiving touchdowns, catching a career-high seven in 2015. He never made the Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team.
But Edelman also raised his game in the playoffs. He is second all-time in career postseason receptions. He averaged 114 and 129 yards per game in the playoffs in 2016 and 2018, plus 93 per game in 2014 - all Super Bowl-winning seasons for the Patriots.
He took home Super Bowl MVP in 2019 after going for 10 catches and 143 yards - he was practically the only offense in a 13-3 defensive slugfest.
Edelman also owns some iconic moments. His falling, bobbling, mid-air catch in the 2016 Super Bowl helped propel the Patriots' comeback over the Atlanta Falcons and ranks as one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history.
And Edelman scored the go-ahead touchdown on 4th down in the 2014 Super Bowl when the Patriots beat the Seahawks.
Edelman's modest regular-season resumé will likely hold him back from the Hall of Fame. Still, he is bound for the Patriots Hall of Fame and perhaps something just as good: Belichick's admiration and a key place in the greatest dynasty in NFL history.
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