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‘It was a privilege to coach him’: Patriots head coach Bill Belichick reacts to Julian Edelman’s retirement

Related: Patriots legend Julian Edelman officially announces his retirement

New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Julian Edelman has announced his retirement from the NFL, ending a career in pro football that spanned 12 seasons and saw him rise from positionless draft day afterthought to one of the most prolific wide receivers in postseason history. A three-time Super Bowl winner and one-time Super Bowl MVP, Edelman was an integral part in the New England Patriots’ Dynasty 2.0.

It was therefore no surprise to see the organization’s leaders sing his praises after his official retirement announcement.

Head coach Bill Belichick called coaching Edelman “a privilege” and referenced his toughness and versatility in a statement released by the club:

By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career — wins, championships, production — Julian has it all. Few players can match Julian’s achievements, period, but considering his professional trajectory and longevity, the group is even more select. It is historic. This is a tribute to his legendary competitiveness, mental and physical toughness and will to excel. Day in and day out, Julian was always the same: all out. Then, in the biggest games and moments, with championships at stake, he reached even greater heights and delivered some of his best, most thrilling performances. For all Julian did for our team, what I may appreciate the most is he was the quintessential throwback player. He could, and did, do everything — catch, run, throw, block, return, cover and tackle — all with an edge and attitude that would not allow him to fail under any circumstance. Julian Edelman is the ultimate competitor and it was a privilege to coach him.

Edelman joined the Patriots as a seventh-round draft selection in 2009 and started his career as a role player. Seeing most of his prominent snaps as a punt returner, he served as a part-time wide receiver and even emergency defensive back early on in his career. Following Wes Welker’s departure in 2013, however, Edelman took over as Tom Brady’s favorite target and never looked back.

Over the seven years that followed, Edelman and Brady became one of the most prolific quarterback-receiver duos in the NFL — one that helped New England win those aforementioned three Super Bowls. Along the way, Edelman earned his spot on the organization’s Team of the 2010s and in NFL history.

Be it his touchdown pass to Danny Amendola in the 2014 divisional playoff round versus the Baltimore Ravens, his game-winner versus the Seattle Seahawks later that tournament, or his incredible catch versus the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51, Edelman was a player for the big moments. As a result, he will wear the red jacked as a Patriots Hall of Famer soon.

It is also why team owner Robert Kraft called him one of the “great success stories” in team history:

Julian Edelman is one of the great success stories in our franchise’s history. There aren’t many players who earn an NFL roster spot at a position they have never played before. Julian not only did that as a seventh-round draft selection, but he is retiring with the second-most career receptions in franchise history and as a three-time Super Bowl Champion, including his last as Super Bowl MVP. No one was more committed to his craft and honing his skills than Jules. His explosiveness off the line, quickness in his cuts and elusiveness after the catch made him one of the hardest players to defend throughout his career. His clutch catches in our biggest games and overall toughness made him a fan favorite. Over the past 12 years, I have enjoyed watching him grow as a player, as a person and as a father. In 2019, I had the privilege of traveling to Israel with Julian, which might be the only place where he is more popular than here in New England.

Edelman struggled with injuries lately in his career, and noted in his retirement video that the wheels had fallen off. Despite that ending, however, his time with the Patriots and in the NFL was an overwhelming success story.

The statements provided by Belichick and Kraft show just that.