Julian Edelman

Patriots Celebrate ‘Fan Favorite' Julian Edelman During Halftime Ceremony

“He was quick to get open, fearless across the middle, and elusive after the catch. And one of the things that made him a fan favorite here in New England, he was tough as nails,” Kraft said as the crowd erupted with cheers.

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It was a sight New England Patriots fans know well.

Julian Edelman burst out of the tunnel at Gillette Stadium, sprinted 100 yards down the sideline, and ran into the end zone where he put his hand to his ear, jumped up and pumped his fist in the air, sending the Foxboro crowd into a frenzy.

It was No. 11's trademark when taking the field prior to games and it was thrilling to see again on Sunday.

Truly electric, and as the Patriots said on social media, all the feels.

The former wide receiver, who is one of the most impactful players in team history, was honored by the Patriots with a special halftime ceremony during their Week 3 game versus the New Orleans Saints.

Edelman was greeted on the field by his four-year-old daughter Lily -- wearing a sparkly blue No. 11 jersey -- who he held in his arms as Patriots owner Robert Kraft spoke about his illustrious 12-year career in the National Football League.

“Playing professional football is hard, but the great ones always make it look easy,” Kraft told a cheering crowd. “For more than a decade, Julian Edelman was one of the greatest. He had a knack for making improbable catches possible, creating space when there was none, and constantly moving the chains."

“He was quick to get open, fearless across the middle, and elusive after the catch. And one of the things that made him a fan favorite here in New England, he was tough as nails,” Kraft said as the crowd erupted with cheers.

Edelman is not only one of the most clutch postseason performers in Patriots history, but he is also one of the most clutch players of his era.

The only NFL player with more playoff receiving yards and playoff receptions than Edelman is San Francisco 49ers legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, something Kraft made sure to mention during his remarks Sunday.

Kraft also noted how Gillette Stadium was unfortunately empty for both Edelman's final game in October 2020 and when he announced his retirement in April 2021, due to coronavirus restrictions.

Julian Edelman officially announced his retirement in a video recorded from Gillette Stadium.

"There's no way for a Patriots legend to end his story like that," Kraft said, as the crowd roared, drowning out the rest of what Kraft was saying.

Kraft then hugged Edelman, with both men flanked by the three Super Bowl trophies that Edelman helped New England win.

Edelman, who sported a gray hoodie with cut-off sleeves -- in true Bill Belichick fashion -- then took the podium and addressed the enthusiastic crowd.

“I want to take a little time to thank the Kraft family, coach [Bill] Belichick, and all my teammates,” Edelman said. “I miss them to death. And you guys, the fans, you guys have taken me and my family, and you brought us into your homes and you welcomed us. And we lived you guys, we breathed you guys, and we’ll always die you guys.”

Fans were overcome with emotion watching the retired wide receiver hold his daughter on the same field where his career started and ended.

“It was electric. It was loud, everybody loved to see it, I teared up a little, it was awesome,” said Pats fan Justin Dean.

“Always loved Edelman, always was a true Patriot, come out when we needed him to, showed up when we needed him to,” said Fab Ed Dodge.

“This is the reason why I came to the game today," said Faith Wilson-Russo. "I needed closure and I know that’s probably going to sound crazy but not having last season and then him retiring I needed to see him so I got closure today.”

Patriots fans are hoping this year's 1-2 record turns around and say they could have used Edelman out on the field Sunday.

“I wanted him to suit up because we needed him today,” Dan Myrtle said.

Prior to kickoff, Edelman was on the field where he said hello to some of his former teammates and Belichick, who did not participate in the halftime ceremony, presumably because he was in the locker room with the team.

But the Patriots coach has praised Edelman in the past and as recently as prior to Sunday's game, saying the wide receiver is one of the toughest players he has ever coached.

Edelman, 35, is one of the most beloved and successful players of the Patriots dynasty.

The converted quarterback blossomed into one of the Patriots' all-time great wide receivers, amassing 620 catches and 6,822 yards over 11 active seasons, but he will be most remembered for what he did during the postseason, catching the go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl XLIX and winning Super Bowl LIII MVP honors at age 32, while amassing 118 catches for 1,422 yards and seven touchdowns.

Edelman's remarkable run with the Patriots began when the team drafted him in the seventh round in 2009 and ended when he decided to call it a career after 11 seasons in the NFL -- all in New England -- because of a knee injury that cut his 2020 season short after just six games.

He has reiterated it was his health, and not a lack of desire to keep playing, that led him to retire, and he's now enjoying his post-NFL career as an analyst for Showtime’s “Inside The NFL.”

Julian Edelman said it's definitely going to be weird, as he is torn over his allegiance to Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Edelman’s return to Gillette Stadium comes exactly one week before his longtime teammate and friend Tom Brady faces the Patriots for the first time as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when the teams meet on Oct. 3.

Edelman acknowledged last week that it would be strange to see Brady donning a jersey other than the one he wore when the pair won three Super Bowls together.

And unlike former teammate Rob Gronkowski, Edelman has said it's a dream to retire a Patriot, having played his entire career with just one team.

In his words, "Foxboro forever."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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