Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman Is Red (+ White + Blue) Hot And Hungrier Than Ever

Julian Edelman
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Photography: Nick Garcia

Styling: Angelica Poise Ziegler, Style Out of the City

Grooming: Cesar Ferrette

Shot on location at One Thousand Museum Residences 

Julian Edelman is a man of many names, and we’re about to give him one more. The New England Patriots wide receiver answers to JE11, The Squirrel (because he’s out there “trying to find nuts”), Edelnut and Minitron (but only by teammate and “brother” Tom Brady), but we can’t help comparing him to Peter Pan. Not because he lives in a fantasy land where he’ll never grow up, mind, because if anything, he’s the opposite. But when he tells us that his mantra for life is “you’ve got to believe” and then says “always believe” three times in succession, we fully expect him to clap.

But hell, Peter’s belief saved Tinkerbell, and Edelman’s self-belief created the transformation from athletic underdog to Super Bowl LIII MVP. So maybe we should start clapping because we do believe. It’s hard—in fact damn near impossible—to overshadow Tom Brady, but Minitron still managed to do it. He led his team to a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3, finishing with 10 catches for 141 yards—more than half of the Patriots’ total receiving yardage—in the process.

After a spectacular offseason traveling and hanging out at home in California, the 32-year-old athlete is back in Boston and getting ready to rumble. He’s cruising to Gillette Stadium in his Porsche Panamera Turbo when we catch up with him to talk about life, love, football and self-confidence.

“You’ve got to believe in you,” he says. “There are going to be a lot of naysayers, a lot of noise. Everyone’s got an opinion—especially nowadays— and if you focus on that, it’s going to eat you up inside, and it’s going to take away from what you’re trying to accomplish, which ultimately is the No. 1 goal. Always believe, always believe, always believe. That’s how I sign my signature, even.”

His mantra has taken him far, leading him from his native Redwood City, Calif., to nearby San Mateo (which, coincidentally, happens to be Tom Brady’s hometown) where he attended junior college for a year before transferring to Kent State University, where he played as a quarterback. He was then selected by the Patriots in the seventh and final round of the 2009 Draft, with the 232nd overall pick, scoring a four-year contract with a $48,700 signing bonus.

Julian Edelman
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But because of his diminutive status—he’s 5’10” and under 200 pounds—Edelman has had to be harder, better, faster and stronger than his peers. “I’ve always been the underdog,” he admits. “At every point in my life and at every level, I’ve always had to fight and scratch just to show who I was.”

Even though he planned for the future by majoring in business management at Kent State, pro ball was always the goal. But to his credit, he never self-doubted, he just believed. “My dream was to play in the NFL, but in a way, it kept my mind off of ‘Am I going to make it?’” he recalls. “At the time I was thinking, ‘Man, screw what these people say. I’m going to show them. All right, I’m too small. Yeah, well, I’m the best.’ There are always people out there hating you, and obviously, I’m going to ignore that, but at the end of the day, proving people wrong is always fun, and I want to just keep on doing that. Negative energy burns you out.”

Edelman is living proof that he practices what he preaches. He tore his ACL in the summer of 2017 and missed an entire season. Yet, the very next year, not only was he back and better than ever, but he took home the Super Bowl MVP trophy, becoming the seventh wide receiver in NFL history to do so and the first since the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII. He also made history by ranking second overall in both postseason receiving yards and postseason receptions, just behind legend Jerry Rice; holding the Super Bowl record for eight career punt returns; and becoming the first Jewish player to be named MVP.

With the Patriots, he’s taken home three Super Bowl trophies—for XLIX, LI and LIII, though with the MVP accolade under his belt, life has already changed in a big way. “Win a Super Bowl the first time, and your life definitely changes,” he notes. “The second time, people notice you more, you’re more recognizable. Being a 5’10” white guy, I can usually blend in pretty good, but now the game has changed a little bit, and people recognize me more than they used to, even in foreign countries. There’s a lot more opportunities that come my way and people, especially in Boston, take care of you a little more. The more you win, the more free stuff you get, too. It’s crazy; I really don’t have to buy anything!”

Julian Edelman
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But beyond the material is the one thing that really matters for someone like Edelman, who has an agenda and an end game. “The more you win and the more accomplished your career is, I believe it just opens more doors. You’re definitely a lot busier. It’s been a whirlwind,” he admits.

And the storm isn’t going to stop. Because of the MVP accolade, he’s aware that all eyes are on him, and that the gaze is going to be relentless. “Honestly, I’m not one to sit back and think about [how great my life is right now],” he maintains. “Like Bob Seger said, ‘You’ve got to turn the page.’ This isn’t like you sit back and you’re MVP, and this is awesome. Now you have an expectation. People are looking at you even closer, so you’ve got to go out and work even harder.”

At least his team is consistent. Head coach Bill Belichick will expect the same dedication and hard work as usual (he has led the Patriots to eight Super Bowls, winning five of them). Edelman expects some good-natured teasing from teammates Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater, but for the most part, his MVP status is an accepted, acknowledged thing. The Patriots are a unit. Hell, they’re more of a machine at this point: a big, red, white and blue winning machine.

And because it’s a fact of life, and life didn’t end with the 2018 season, the show must go on. “I’m just happy to be back in Boston and back in my routine, trying to get back and get ready at a high level for the 2019 season,” he says.

He didn’t achieve the pinnacle of success with three Super Bowl rings or even one MVP title. Many might think so, but not for Edelman, who has a constant need to push himself, to keep achieving. “I have a set of goals right now, and I’m just worried about those,” he says. “When I hit those, I’ll set new ones. If they’re in the sky, or on the moon, or in a black hole, I’m going for them—I’m hungrier than ever.”

It’s going to be a very busy year for Edelman, who’s not only going to be juggling his NFL career, but also the outside opportunities that his NFL career has created.

Julian Edelman
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He has his own product line, JE11, which carries tongue-in-cheek products like an MVP beard tee in Patriots red and blue, and another that reimagines his head coach as Avengers baddie Thanos. His current focus with JE11 is a product line ofRelentless” items (another one of his mantras). He’s also an ambassador and designer for Joe’s Jeans, having released a seven-piece collection that he had complete creative control over… and an accompanying campaign with Victoria’s Secret stunner Sara Sampaio.

A big focus this summer will be a project he began working on after tearing his ACL in 2017. He turned a bad situation into a golden one—lemons into lemonade—by simultaneously creating a production company, Coast Productions, and filming his life during that timeframe. He sold the documentary to Showtime, which will air in June. “My life in these last two years has been a lot of highs and a lot of lows,” he says, “Once I tore my ACL, I decided to put my life on camera and allow people to see what goes through an athlete’s mind through times of adversity—what happens with their family, the emotional roller coaster you go through, the confidence issues you go through, the confidence-building you go through.”

Edelman isn’t worried about putting his life on display: He did so overtly by releasing his memoir, Relentless, in 2017, and continues to do so semi-covertly through the children’s books he writes. We say “semi” because the protagonist of said books is named Jules, and he learns to overcome his physical limitations through hard work and the aid of a friend named Tom. Jules is a squirrel, and Tom, a goat (otherwise known as the “Greatest of All Time”). Edelman is currently working on his third book in the Flying High series, which “takes what happens in my career and makes it applicable to kids through Jules the squirrel.”

With all the royalties he’s earning from his various projects, as well as the $11 million, two-year contract extension he signed with the Patriots in 2017 (with an additional $9 million guaranteed through the 2019 season), Edelman isn’t blowing his wad indiscriminately. He has his Porsche, a new Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon on order and recently renovated his $2 million Back Bay

(Boston) brownstone to feel more like his native Northern California, complete with a spiral staircase painted in Golden Gate Bridge red; he’s also looking to buy in Los Angeles.

Julian Edelman
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Still, for an athlete who earns megabucks, that’s very nearly frugal. “I didn’t buy anything crazy when I first got to the Patriots. I think I bought a laptop; that was pretty much it [though] in my third year. I did buy this blue, plaid Gucci suit that I wore to [celebrate the brand’s 2012 collection]. It was one of my first cool suits; I loved it.”

    Edelman has always had a passion for fashion, but it was his big brother Tom Brady who inadvertently fostered his love of luxe duds. “I always liked cool things growing up, but I didn’t really know what cool was until I became a professional athlete and became exposed to more things, [aka] when you go [into our] locker room and see Tom Brady dressed up in Tom Ford and a dope Rolex,” he says. “You always knew Rolexes were cool, but you didn’t know how cool.”

Since those early days with the Pats looking to Brady for guidance, his style has developed and honed on its own. “I feel like my style has evolved to brands that are very simplistic,” he says. “I like John Elliott, FRAME jeans and Rag & Bone—brands that are timeless but aren’t too fashion-forward. I love shoes; you can’t beat Tom Ford—his sneakers, boots, dress shoes are always unbelievable. I have a Brioni tux that rocks the world that I wore at the Met gala. I love Zegna and John Varvatos suits. I love a lot of stuff. As far as watches, you can never go wrong with a Rolex; you can dress it at any point. I love IWCs; I have a couple of those. My next watch will probably be an Audemars Piguet; it’s a little younger. I’m also a California kid that loves to rock a pair of Vans and some kind of jean shorts and a T-shirt. I like to dress to the occasion. I’m definitely aware of what I’m wearing, that’s for sure.”

As his visibility increases on the field, so has his public persona off and to be aware of what he’s wearing, dressing, doing and supporting is part of the drill as is showing off said milestones on social media. In the last year, he shaved off his lucky Super Bowl beard on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, hit up Clive Davis’ Grammy party and brought sexy back by hanging out with Justin Timberlake backstage at a concert, documenting it all on the ‘gram.

Something far more important that takes up much more retail on his feed is his daughter, Lily. Though the 2-year-old was born of a casual relationship with Swedish model Ella Rose, Edelman takes fatherhood very, very seriously. In fact, he says it’s the biggest yet most rewarding challenge he’s experienced. “Fatherhood is such a huge challenge especially with [Ella’s] profession and my profession being able to give my daughter the time and energy that she desires and that she needs,” he admits. “There’s a fine line. You have your craft, and you’re working towards being the best you can possibly be, something that you’ve been working towards your whole life since you were 8 years old, and then all of a sudden, your priorities change. You’re not living for yourself anymore, you’re living for your little girl now. That’s how my parents lived for me, so that’s all I really know.”

Julian Edelman
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Is he on the hunt to find Lily a stepmom? “I’m dating here and there,” Edelman acknowledges, amused. “It’s a little different now that I have a little girl. When I go out and meet a fine young lady, I don’t get to just think about me. I’ve got to think about [Lily], so that one’s tricky. But I am dating and [she 100 percent needs to be stepmom material]. If she doesn’t mess with Lil, then she can’t mess with me.”

Fatherhood, new dating rules, injuries, limitations—these are all challenges that Edelman confronts head-on. He isn’t one to shy away from difficulty. After all, he knows what it’s like to be the underdog, and he’s learned how to triumph in spite of it. “There’s adversity everyone overcomes in football with injuries and in life. There are always setbacks, but I truly believe what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and when you get down to the nuts and bolts, when you go through something and you beat it, there’s no other feeling like it.”

When we express appreciation for his optimism, he says, “I guess I’m a half-full kind of guy. I’m the type of guy that when you’re green, you grow and when you’re ripe, you rot… so I’m always trying to stay green.”

We’d say, “Stay golden, Pony Boy,” but that wouldn’t mean much to Julian Edelman. “Stay green, Peter Pan” is a much better fit. 

Julian Edelman
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THE SQUIRREL’S GUIDE TO BOSTON PROPER

I love the restaurant game out here. I love Ken Oringer’s restaurants Toro and Little Donkey [they have] unbelievable food and great atmosphere. I love Hojoko in The Verb Hotel by Fenway. It’s my favorite burger in Boston; I’m a big burger guy. I love going to Celtics games, Bruins games, [Red] Sox games. Boston’s such a crazy sports town, it would be foolish not to go out and experience them. There are a couple lounges and clubs here and there, but I try to stay out of those as much as possible, even though I’ll still nip in every once in a while. Capo and Lincoln in south Boston are always fun, and you’ve got The Grand, which is probably one of the best clubs. I like to go to the House of Blues; I’m a big concert guy. I saw Tom Petty and the Foo Fighters and Jay-Z at Fenway. When you see them at these historical and unbelievable places, there’s an aura. I love that [Boston] is small. I can dip out to New York, Miami or Amsterdam, and when I come back to Boston, it’s nice… not too crazy. I can have a little fun, but also chill, hop on my skateboard and cruise around to Boston Commons and see the cherry blossoms. Boston’s a little different.

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