How Patriots' Julian Edelman became Tom Brady's 'little brother'

Belichick: Edelman is 'a great competitor' (0:45)

Bill Belichick tells Chris Berman about the importance of Julian Edelman and how he measures up with other great Patriots. (0:45)

Editor's note: This has been updated after Super Bowl LIII.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was the offseason after his rookie year in 2009 and receiver Julian Edelman was on a quest for quarterback Tom Brady's attention -- and trust. Edelman had his agents find him a spot near Manhattan Beach, California, close enough so Brady, his New England Patriots teammate, could call him when there was a throwing session.

Edelman knew Brady worked out in the Los Angeles area with Wes Welker and Randy Moss and he wanted to join, viewing it as an indoctrination into the Brady circle of trust.

Brady called once that first offseason, and Edelman rushed to the field for the arduous workout. The following offseason, there were maybe three throwing sessions. Edelman also admitted sitting next to Brady in the locker room after he joined the Patriots and serving as his gofer.

"I kind of did anything for him," Edelman said in an E:60 profile in 2015. "If he needed something, I'll go get 'em."

By his fourth season, Edelman became a regular at those offseason workouts and would sometimes even have lunch at Brady's house. He was in.

That circle of trust evolved into a friendship and a brotherhood over the years. On the field, the Brady-Edelman connection is the most prolific in NFL postseason history. No QB-receiver combo has more receptions (115) or receiving yards (1,412) in the playoffs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Those numbers included 10 receptions and 141 yards for Edelman on Sunday as he became the Super Bowl LIII MVP in a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

"He's always been kind of like my little brother, in a good way," Brady said last week. "I don't have a little brother, but he's kind of like a little brother and he knows how much I love him."

The relationship has come a long way.

"It was funny, the transition from hoping to get a text to now Jules is his guy," Edelman's childhood friend Spenser Garrison said.

Garrison still chuckles at the thought of Edelman trying to win Brady's attention during those first few offseasons. But he understands. Edelman has told him he would see Brady eyeing the young players in the gym and on the practice field. Brady was deciphering who put the work in. It was his way of determining who was really trustworthy.

Edelman wanted desperately to be in the coveted group. It may have taken time, but he's there now.

"Yeah, we have a great relationship, Jules and I, and I trust him so much," Brady said. "We've put in so many hours together."

Brady and Edelman grew up on the peninsula just south of San Francisco, approximately 12 miles apart. Coming from different towns and generations, they might as well have been worlds apart.

Brady is a Generation Xer. He graduated from Junipero Serra High School in 1995 when Edelman, a millennial, was 9.

Brady starred at Serra High, a private school in San Mateo known for producing Barry Bonds. Brady went on to Michigan, then was taken in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft (199th overall selection). He won his first Super Bowl when Edelman was a 5-foot, 100-pound freshman at Woodside High, not exactly the build of a future go-to NFL receiver.

"That is the thing about Julian. You tell him he can't do something and he's going to prove you wrong," his varsity football coach, Steve Nicolopulos, said. "That's his mentality. That is his motivation."

Edelman said he was aware the kid from down the road was making waves in New England, some 3,000 miles away. He recently reminisced about being in eighth grade and chanting "I'm Brady!" on the playground.

But more than anything, Edelman was a 49ers fan. He played for the Redwood City 49ers in Pop Warner and cherished Deion Sanders, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and the franchise's rich history. Not Brady.

Jeff Garcia was more someone Edelman could relate to -- the undersized underdog coming from a small school to prove everybody wrong, right around the same time Brady started rewriting history.

"Yeah, that's a good comparison. Jeff Garcia, anyone who could run," Garrison said. "Jeff Garcia, Michael Vick. We used to joke around. Anyone who was hot in the NFL, as kids we tried to emulate them."

While Brady was beginning to make his mark at the NFL level, Edelman was trying to find the right fit for an athlete his size. His father, Frank, said they had to move Edelman from running back to quarterback after his freshman season because he was getting pummeled. He played junior varsity quarterback as a sophomore.

Despite hitting a major growth spurt from his freshman to junior year of high school, Edelman was still an undersized quarterback who led Woodside to the sectional championship his senior season. He went to College of San Mateo for a year before playing quarterback at Kent State, where he twice faced Rams coach Sean McVay, then a receiver at Miami (Ohio) University.

It wasn't until Patriots coach Bill Belichick drafted Edelman as a football player -- not a quarterback -- in the final round of the 2009 NFL draft that he finally crossed paths with Brady.

It's easy to see how they've meshed since. Brady is known for his competitiveness and work ethic. He's 41 years old and outlasted his succession plan.

Edelman comes from a blue-collar family and isn't afraid to work. He gets it from his father, who owns and operates an auto body shop in nearby Mountain View, California, and admittedly is a serious and simple man.

It makes sense that Edelman and Brady can relate despite their disparate paths.

"Jules and Tom are a lot alike," Frank Edelman said. "They're both extremely competitive people. I don't know exactly, I only assume what I think I know, but when Jules ended up with the Patriots, I think Tom was in a weird way like, 'This guy is as competitive as me.'"

Edelman's first few years with the Patriots were spent clinging to the bottom of the roster. It wasn't until a 105-catch season in 2013 that his career really started to take off.

After missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL and the first four games of this season to serve a performance-enhancing-substance suspension, he caught 74 passes for 850 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season.

The grind never stopped as Edelman won his third ring with Brady, who earned his record sixth.

"All I can tell you is the way we worked, the way Jules worked, the way our minds work, is if you're going to do something, you have to completely submerge yourself," Frank Edelman said. "That has kind of been my mantra. It's what I taught my kids. It's not a totally good thing. I'm really not into balance. Everyone wants to have a balanced life. We want to have fun, we want to play, we have to work. No. You work until you accomplish what your goals are. I'm a small-business man. That is the way I think."

The Patriots were in the AFC Championship Game for the eighth consecutive year and Brady was on the verge of reaching his ninth Super Bowl, and there was Edelman on the sideline after a touchdown in the bitter cold in Kansas City, ranting and raving, hyping up his quarterback -- and friend.

"You're too f---ing old! You're too old!" the cameras caught Edelman yelling as Brady nodded.

It was his way of pumping up and defending his quarterback. They heard the talk earlier this season that Brady's play had slipped, that the Patriots weren't the same. For them, it was motivation.

The bond forged over the past decade was there for the world to see. Edelman led the Patriots with seven receptions on 10 targets for 96 yards in the AFC title game. He made clutch plays down the stretch and has now seen at least 10 targets in 11 consecutive playoff games. After all these years, the trust with Brady couldn't be stronger.

"I mean, he's a great friend," Edelman said. "I think that has helped our relationship on the field because there is a friendship there caring for one another."

It shows how far they've come despite their age gap. There will be no need this offseason for Edelman to chase the player he referred to as the BOAT (best of all time) recently. He's at the top of the list for workout calls.