Competition fuels Edelman's fire

Pollack was a physical education teacher and a fine badminton player. Edelman had never taken a swipe at a shuttlecock in his life, but declared, "I can beat you.''

The first game was 15-1. The next one was 15-2. Twenty games later, Edelman was only losing by a 15-9 margin, but his coach finally shut him down. "Kid," he said, "I've got to go home.'' Edelman desperately persisted. He couldn't handle "no."

"He gets a little fiery, but you can't take it personally,'' Pollack said. "He just wants to get something done.''

Pollack charted out each football practice, assigning points for a poor throw or a crisp route or a successful scramble. Edelman was the only player who kept track during workouts.

"I'd grade him on a slant route and he'd say, 'That was the receiver's fault. I should have two points here,''' Pollack said. "My other coaches said, 'Aren't you bothered he's questioning you all the time?' I said, 'Hell no. He's paying attention.''' Edelman stayed at San Mateo only one semester, just long enough to throw for 1,312 yards and rush for a school-record 1,253 yards. Martin, scouring talent in the Bay area, liked the kid's spunk and offered him a spot on his team.

Martin already had a quarterback, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Baylor. Edelman had never met him, so when he showed up for 7-on-7 drills in the summer, he strode toward him.

"What are you doing?" Edelman asked.

"Practicing my quick kicks,'' the QB answered.

"Keep on practicing those, because pretty soon that's all you'll be doing,'' Edelman said. "I'm taking your job.''

He did, throwing for 4,997 yards and 30 TDs and rushing for 2,483 yards in three seasons at Kent State.

"He changed the culture of our whole program,'' Martin said. "He wasn't going to stop until he proved everyone wrong.''

Edelman roomed with Brian Lainhart, a safety with pro aspirations who shared his competitive nature. They became best friends, even though they were on opposite sides of the ball. Because he was the quarterback, Edelman wore the "no contact" red jersey in practice.

"So one day I pick off one of his passes,'' Lainhart said. "I'm jogging into the end zone. He's got the red jersey on, but he comes at me full throttle and sends me sprawling. He hits me so hard I do a flip. This is my best friend, my roommate, a groomsman in my wedding, and he's taking me out at the knees.

"We went at it. I'm screaming, 'You're wearing the red jersey, Julian!' and he comes back with, 'You should have known I wasn't going to let you score!'''

Edelman and Lainhart competed in darts, Xbox, games of H-O-R-S-E in the backyard. When Edelman lost, he kicked the ball into the woods.

"He's like a 12-year old,'' Lainhart said, "but it's his best trait. Julian's still playing like a little undersized kid that nobody thought would make it.''

In Edelman's senior season, Kent State was milking a lead over Buffalo in the final seconds. It was third-and-14 and a first down for Kent State would clinch it. "Julian has the ball and he's in trouble, but he runs over two guys, makes another one miss, and dives for the first down,'' said Martin. "That personified his career.''

Lainhart's lasting memory was against Akron when Kent State was down 7 and facing a 4th-and-31 with less than a minute left. Edelman retreated, cut, ducked, avoided a slew of would-be tacklers and scrambled for 64 yards. Then he threw a TD to tie the game.

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