Julian Edelman decided to return home after five days as a free agent.
Edelman grew up in Woodside, Calif., and had a free-agent visit with his favorite team as a child, the San Francisco 49ers. Woodside is just 30 miles south of San Francisco and 22 miles west of the 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Edelman’s parents still live in the Bay Area, but the wide receiver said New England is home now.
“That was like a little dream right there,” Edelman said Thursday of visiting the 49ers during a conference call with the media. “I’m not going to lie, it was very surreal. I remember going in high school and going to the training camps and seeing the players, and then I got to be behind the scenes and meet with the coaches.
“I ultimately felt that the best fit for me and my skill set and my career was back in Boston. That was my home growing up, but like I keep on saying, Foxboro is home. It’s all I know really.”
Edelman didn’t want to leave the Patriots, and head coach Bill Belichick made it obvious New England didn’t want to lose the free-agent wide receiver when the team offered him a four-year, $17 million contract. Belichick showed he can be budged in contract negotiations — Edelman had just a three-year offer from the Patriots before free agency began.
“The most difficult time of this process is planning on the worst, and that’s moving on and going to another place,” Edelman said. “It’s very tough, especially when you’ve been in a place for five years and you’ve developed a love for the area. You have teammates, coaches that you’ve been through battles with. You have fans that are just outrageously great. It’s just a great area to play football in. There’s a reality that I could have played somewhere else.”
Edelman started his college career at College of San Mateo in California before spending three years in Ohio at Kent State. For the past five years, Edelman has called New England home. And since he’s spent most of his adult life in the Boston area, New England is more familiar than the Bay Area.
“I know Boston better than I know San Francisco. I go to the Cape more than I go to Lake Tahoe. I mean, I guess I am a New Englander when it comes down to it,” Edelman said.
New England has embraced Edelman, too. The pain of losing Wes Welker wore off fast for Patriots fans after Edelman caught 105 passes for 1,056 yards with six touchdowns in 2013. It’s clear New Englanders love short, scrappy players with try-hard attitudes like Edelman.
The receiver could have returned to the Bay Area to be closer to his family, but his parents understood his decision.
“My parents were in my corner regardless of what I were to do,” Edelman said. “They’re going to support me whatever decision that I make.”