Sunday’s matchup with the San Francisco 49ers will be a special game for New England Patriots wide receiver and Redwood City, Calif. native Julian Edelman because he’s going up against his hometown team.
Edelman was a huge 49ers fan for the first 22 years of his life before being drafted by the Patriots in 2009. His dogs were named Dwight and Montana after 49er greats Dwight Clark and Joe Montana, and he even took Jerry Rice’s daughter, Jacqui, to prom.
Edelman was “terrified” of the Hall of Fame wide receiver, so he wasn’t picking Rice’s brain about football. But Rice still served as a major inspiration for Edelman.
“Growing up in Redwood City they had Edgewood Park and there was Jerry Rice Hill,” Edelman said. “It was a folklore. It was known that Jerry Rice used to go out and run that hill and everyone knew about his work ethic — him going out and catching bricks, outworking people and never taking time off and really taking his craft seriously.”
Edelman did relay a conversation he had with Rice’s wife at the time, Jacqueline.
“She told me a story once that after (the 49ers) went to an NFC Championship or something — he had a great year — immediately after the season he wanted to lose five or 10 pounds, so he started starving himself and running more,” Edelman said. “This was like weeks after a season. It explains why he is who he was and who he is today, and how special he is to this game.
“I think Jerry kinda was a pioneer for the professional athlete of nowadays. I mean, now everyone is so specialized in the training, and this, and dietician and their craft. Jerry was doing that — Mr. Rice was doing that in the ’80s, before it was so popularized like it is now. So he’s been a huge inspiration to me and it’s an honor to even be near anything of his in any kind of thing.”
Edelman ranks second, one spot below Rice, in postseason catches and receiving yards.
The Patriots wide receiver said he used to run the “Jerry Rice Hill” when he’d come back from college at Kent State.
More notes from Friday:
— The Patriots are working out guard Cordel Iwuagwu, fullback Roosevelt Nix, linebacker David Reese, offensive tackle Jordan Steckler and wide receiver Damion Willis, per the league’s transaction wire.
Nix has spent time with the Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts since entering the NFL in 2014.
Willis, who’s 6-foot-3, 204 pounds, caught nine passes for 82 yards last season with the Cincinnati Bengals.
— On Edelman’s reduced role this season, the Patriots receiver deferred to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“Whatever he asks me to do, I’m going to do,” Edelman said. “That’s one of our leaders of our unit. That’s my job as a player, try to go out and just do what they ask me to do and let them worry about the grand scheme, big picture whatever.”
— Edelman actually found himself excited to return to practice this week. He said that only happens when it’s taken away from you.
“So I guess the old saying ‘you always want what you can’t have’ is true,” Edelman noted.
— Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who opted out for the 2020 NFL season, is still mentoring fellow Alabama product Anfernee Jennings, a rookie linebacker.
“We talk all the time. He kind of watches the game and kind of gives me some feedback on what I should have done or could do better and stuff like that,” Jennings said. “Just try to be another tool for me to continue to learn and grow and understand the game. Still trying to be a sponge and soak it all up and I’m always looking to get better.”
— Patriots wideout Gunner Olszewski isn’t a big fan of virtual meetings if they aren’t preceded or followed by practice.
“I’ll tell you, it’s awful,” Olszewski said. “I don’t know how y’all do it, sitting at a desk all day staring at a computer. It’s tough to do because you don’t get to let off any steam, you know? I can’t speak for anybody else, but I don’t love meetings. I love playing football. But the meetings are important. So when you have to go to meetings and you don’t get to go on a field and use what you just learned, it’s tough because you’re like ‘man,’ and it’s tough just sitting at a desk all day and not getting to go on the field and do it.”
Don’t put Gunner in the cubicle.