Playing against the 49ers will always be special for Julian Edelman.
The Redwood, Calif., native was a big 49ers fan growing up and even named his dogs “Dwight” and “Montana” after 49ers legends Dwight Clark and Joe Montana.
Edelman also looked up to Jerry Rice, the 49ers receiver who won three Super Bowls in San Francisco and is heralded by many as the greatest receiver of all time. He cited Rice as a “huge inspiration,” adding that he used to train at Jerry Rice Hill.
“It was a folklore,” Edelman told reporters Friday. “It was known that Jerry Rice used to go out and run that hill and everyone knew about his work ethic — him going out and catching bricks, outworking people and never taking time off and really taking his craft seriously.”
As Edelman got older and his dreams to make it to the NFL became more serious, he said he would find harder hills to run and name them after Rice.
“I ran it when I used to come back from college,” Edelman said. “But then I used to go to another place because the Jerry Rice Hill was like a 2.5, 3-mile steady uphill run. …. They had, like, this full 45 [degree angle] I used to call that the Jerry Rice Hill, too. Everything that was hard or anything was Jerry Rice something.”
In terms of postseason stats, Rice is the only player Edelman is still chasing. Edelman has the second-most catches and yards for a player in NFL postseason history, trailing just Rice.
Edelman had an opportunity to learn from Rice when he was in high school. He took Rice’s daughter, Jacqueline, to high school prom, but didn’t take the opportunity to get to Rice about football.
“Growing up around his family, we really didn’t have — he was so busy with football, it wasn’t anything like me being able to break down or ask any questions. I was too terrified of him because he was the GOAT, and he was a god in our area,” Edelman said.
However, Rice’s daughter told Edelman a story of what helped make Rice great.
“She told me a story once that after [the 49ers] went to an NFC Championship or something, he had a great year, immediately after the season, he wanted to lose five or 10 pounds, so he started starving himself and running more,” Edelman said. “This was like weeks after a season. It explains why he is who he was and who he is today, and how special he is to this game.
“I think Jerry kinda was a pioneer for the professional athlete of nowadays. I mean, now everyone is so specialized in the training … and their craft. Jerry was doing that — Mr. Rice was doing that in the ’80s, before it was so popularized like it is now. So he’s been a huge inspiration to me, and it’s an honor to even be near anything of his in any kind of thing.”
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