Competition fuels Edelman's fire

Julian Edelman

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The receiver was running at half speed.

The quarterback, Julian Edelman, simply could not stomach that.

Edelman had warned his Kent State teammate before. Run precise routes. Don't go through the motions. Do your job, even though the team had nothing left to play for but pride.

"But the kid just wasn't listening,'' former Kent State coach Doug Martin said.

The receiver was tired of Edelman riding him. He tuned out the diminutive QB, the know-it-all perfectionist who challenged coaches, baited teammates, kept pushing, pushing, pushing everyone to the brink.

"A lot of the guys didn't like him,'' former Kent State safety Brian Lainhart admitted.

They didn't understand how tirelessly Edelman worked for this opportunity, how many programs looked right through him like he wasn't there, even after dominating in high school, junior college and Kent State.

He was too small, barely 5-foot-2 through his first two years of high school. He had the ability, the drive, but he was manhandled by boys who had already reached puberty. His father Frank assured him, "The Edelmans are late bloomers. Wait 'til you are their size. It won't be fair.''

His father drilled him every day, seven days a week, season to season, football to basketball to baseball, before practice, after practice, on weekends. It was agility drills, conditioning drills, then 200 spirals or 200 jump shots or 200 ground balls.

"No more!" his mother Angie protested. "We're on vacation!"

But the father couldn't stop. He invented conflicts, challenged Julian mentally, reduced his son to tears. "I'm 12 years old and he's in my head,'' Edelman said. "I'm over there crying and he says, 'You have to master this part of it,' and finally I'd get so ticked off I'd battle him back.

"Keep on competing. That's all I knew.''

The Kent State receiver was messing with the wrong undersized, underappreciated football player. So when Edelman launched a pass and the kid didn't make the extra effort to haul it in, the option quarterback sprinted downfield, pinned the receiver to the ground and pummeled him with a flurry of fists.

"It was a brawl,'' Martin said. "But that was Julian, the most fiercely competitive kid I've ever had.''

Five years later, Edelman (now listed as 5-10, 198 pounds) is no longer a quarterback. He's a receiver, a punt returner, and, two seasons ago, when New England's secondary was depleted with injuries, a makeshift defensive back. Edelman will line up against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night as the most dangerous receiver in Tom Brady's arsenal, a player with more than 100 catches and 1,000 yards, who couldn't persuade a single NFL team to surpass the incentive-laden $716,000 the Patriots are paying him this season.

"I may have overreacted with that receiver at Kent State,'' Edelman said, "but I like to do things the right way. I was a fiery guy. I still am.''

In preseason, when players are vying for roster spots on the Patriots, skirmishes are frequent, heated, particularly among the receivers and the secondary.

"It's Edelman,'' Patriots DB  Devin McCourty said. "If you are looking for someone in the middle of it, it's almost always him. There's no love lost between the DBs and Julian in training camp.''

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