Competition fuels Edelman's fire

"It's an everyday occurrence with him,'' corner Kyle Arrington confirmed. "He's an extreme competitor. He came out with that chip on his shoulder, a small guy from a small school. The chip's still there.''

Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui marvels at how Edelman bounces to his feet after crushing hits, still talking, still taking everyone on.

"It's every day,'' Hoomanawanui said. "It doesn't matter if it's big or small, Julian has something to say about it. It will be 'Why did you run that way?' or 'How come I didn't get the ball on that play?'

"The fire is always burning with him. Little man's syndrome, I guess.''

* * *

Frank Edelman lost his father when he was 3 years old. He was small but naturally gifted, and when his mom frequented the local taverns, he tagged along with his baseball mitt and a tennis ball. He played baseball in the back, designating a brick as his home run target. Sometimes he'd borrow his mother's hair spray cap and kick imaginary field goals.

When Frank was a freshman cornerback in high school, he got beat on a deep route.

He quit. He had no father to encourage him to go back and try again.

Regret can be a powerful, lingering, aching sentiment. Frank Edelman's dreams ended when he went to work at an automotive shop to support his mother. He became consumed with making sure his sons fulfilled their potential.

"I was very athletic without any coaching at all,'' Frank explained. "I figured if my kids had a little help, maybe it would get them over the hump.''

So he put Julian in a pair of glasses with one eye plugged up with tape and threw him a football. He forced him to dribble left handed while his right hand was tied behind him. He threw him fastballs, right near his head.

Parents drove by and yelled out the window, "Frank! Why are you throwing bee bees at your 10-year-old son?"

"It was so bad,'' Frank lamented. "I was so possessed. We'd drive around and find a local baseball field and I'd hit him grounders, just enough not to ruin his arm. It was wrong.''

And, yet, the results were striking. Julian led his team to a 12-and-under national championship in Pop Warner. In basketball, he was the go-to guy for the last shot. He was a vacuum at shortstop, a .500 hitter.

He was the best athlete in his class -- until all those kids he ran circles around started growing. Edelman entered Woodside (Calif.) High at 4-foot-11, 70 pounds. Suddenly everyone was taller, bigger, stronger.

For years, Edelman had been chiding Sam Alipape, a talented but marginally motivated football teammate. Suddenly Alipape had 75 pounds on Edelman, so when Julian barked, "Move your lazy butt!" Alipape grabbed him and slammed his head into the locker.

"It was a rough three years,'' Frank said. "These kids he had been dominating wanted some payback.''

Julian Edelman finally grew his own 6 inches between junior and senior year. He led Woodside to a 13-0 mark with 2,237 yards and 29 touchdowns passing, and 964 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing.

He waited for the scholarship offers, but no one came calling, so he visited the College of San Mateo with his parents. Coach Bret Pollack proudly gestured to the photos of the All-Americans on the wall behind his desk. Edelman studied them, then asked Pollack, "Coach, where are you going to put my picture?"

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