Bill Belichick met with the media Thursday for the first time since Julian Edelman announced his retirement, and was asked about the former 2009 seventh-round pick's NFL journey.
"Julian has been one of the players that’s probably come further than most every other player that I’ve coached and his development from a quarterback in college to a receiver, a punt returner and even a defensive player, all positions that he never played," Belichick said. "I’d certainly take sail as a punt returner as a receiver, for a number of years at those very difficult positions as quite an accomplishment, especially considering he wasn’t trained to do those things in college.
"His toughness, his competitiveness, his playmaking ability certainly is a big, big part of the backbone of our team. I have a ton of respect for Julian and what he accomplished in his career, how hard he worked to accomplish it and a great appreciation for all he’s done for me personally and our organization."
Former NFL and college head coach Jim Mora Jr. was in his first season as an assistant with the Seattle Seahawks when Edelman came into the NFL after playing quarterback at Kent State and he, too, has nothing but admiration for Edelman.
But he didn't recall Edelman as an NFL prospect, which isn't so much a slight as a testament to Edelman's remarkable development as a football player.
“No, I don't (remember him as a prospect)," Mora said. "And I don't know how many coaches could sit here and honestly tell you that they did. But that makes it so much more impressive. You come into an organization, you’re a seventh-round pick, I don't think a lot is of expected of you, you might hang around for a couple years, you might produce on special teams, and all of a sudden you become a guy that we’re talking about as a potential Hall of Famer.
"And there'll be those out there that say, Well, Tom Brady made his career, and I think that Tom might be one of the first people to say, no. I didn't make his career, he helped make my career by getting open, by getting the tough yards, by making the tough catches, by making the throws that weren't perfect look perfect, all of those things. I loved watching him play. I know my kids loved watching him play, just the energy he played with, the spark he played with, the passion he played with, the toughness he played with. Special, unique man.”
Edelman retired this week after playing 11 seasons with the Patriots and helping the team win three Super Bowl titles, including Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams when he was named Super Bowl MVP.
"I think he was underrated but never undervalued," Mora said. "When you watched him perform, especially in situations where the money was on the line, you had to get a key third down, you had to make a great catch down the field, he was so dependable. And I think that's just a sign of his mental toughness.
"He was a nightmare for defensive coordinators because you would watch him on film at times and, you go, 'Ah, we’ve got this guy. We can cover him.' But then you’d get in a game you go, 'Oh my god, we need to have him doubled. You know, third-and-4, we better get him doubled or he's going to get 5, 6, 7, 8 yards.' For me, it all goes back to this word 'toughness.' He's a tough dude. He's a physically tough dude. He's rocked up. He can take hits, but it's right here (pointing to head) to me that made him so special.”