LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - New Mexico State Head Football Coach Doug Martin has been coaching for 40 years.
But there is no hesitation is voice when he calls Julian Edelman the most competitive person he's ever coached, but also ever met.
"I’ve coached some competitive players, quite a few NFL players. But he is the most competitive person I’ve ever been around," says Martin of Edelman, who he coached at Kent State from 2006-2009.
"Julian does everything with a chip on his shoulder because he’s always been told too short, too this, too that. And he’s always embraced that and that stayed with his whole career.”
When Martin first met the junior college quarterback Edelman, 20 years ago in San Mateo, CA, he may not thought about a Super Bowl MVP. But he knew he had something.
“Jules was an interesting study because coming out of high he didn’t have any offers. And he went to junior college, he still didn’t have any offers."
"He had us (Kent State) and Boise State, and Boise wanted him to stay in junior college another year."
"And the only thing he asked me he said, 'Coach, I just need one coach to believe in me. Do you believe in me?' And I said absolutely. That’s why I’m here.”
So Edelman teamed with Martin at Kent State where he was a three-year starter at quarterback.
In his senior season, Edelman threw 1,82- yards on 56% passing, but he was also the Golden Flashes' leading rusher with 1,370 yards on the ground to go with 13 touchdowns.
But at 5"10, he didn’t have NFL quarterback size. Martin, however, saw an NFL mentality.
In Edelman's senior season, Kent State utilized Edelman on special teams in the return game to highlight his versatility to NFL teams.
NFL scouts either saw Edelman as a defensive back or wide receiver at the next level, but his size still kept him off most draft boards.
But in the pre-draft process, Martin remembers one team in particular that paid close attention: the New England Patriots.
“Every coach from their offensive staff came to work him out in person," recalls Martin of the Patriots scouting Edelman.
"The other teams would have maybe a pro scout come and maybe a position coach, but that’s why they are who they are in New England. They’re very thorough in everything that they do.”
The Patriots saw Edelman as an athletic prospect, and when Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick asked Martin for an opinion, he was honest.
"I told him that he'll be an All-Pro player," says Martin of his endorsement to Belichick. "I said I don't know that he'll win Super Bowls for you, all those type of things."
"I said but I'll tell you this, he will start for you and he will be an All-Pro player. And think in particular Coach Belichick really listened to that. When you have a coach that believes in somebody that strongly, you might want to take a chance on him he did."
After not receiving an invite to the 2009 NFL Combine, the Patriots still drafted Edelman in the 7th round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
As Edelman now retires from the NFL after a 12-year career on Monday, it turns out his college coach was only half-right about his undersized quarterback because Edelman DID in fact win a Super Bowl with the Patriots. And not just one, but three, including an MVP trophy in Super Bowl LIII.
Martin spoke with Edelman Monday after Edelman announced his retirement, as the two still keep in great touch through the years.
And while Martin is no doubt sure of the success Edelman will have after his playing career, he still uses him as a model example in his everyday coaching.
"It's about the perseverance. In today's game with the transfer portal, and everybody's looking for greener pastures, players like Julian Edelman are going to become more rare because he's one of the guys....he would have never have dreamed of going into a transfer portal."
"This guy was about making everyone understand that he could change your mind, that he could earn what he wanted."
And now that Edelman has hung them, the Super Bowl MVP has nothing left to prove. Certainly not to his old coach.
"He's done a lot more for me than I ever did for him. And he knows that," concludes Martin.