Julian Edelman is a huge Jerry Rice fan, and it's clear the San Francisco 49ers legend has had a huge impact on the New England Patriots wide receiver's career.
Edelman grew up in the Bay Area, where he became a devoted 49ers fan and rooted for the great Super Bowl-winning teams that included Hall of Famers such as Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott and Rice, among others.
Sunday's Week 7 game at Gillette Stadium will be just the third matchup between the Patriots and 49ers since Edelman was drafted in 2009. He didn't play in the 2012 game, but he did feature in the 2016 contest with seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown in a Patriots win.
Edelman was asked during his Friday video press conference about his admiration for Rice, and he went into great detail.
“I would definitely say Jerry Rice has been a huge inspiration on me as a football player and work ethic, him and my father,” Edelman said. “Growing up in Redwood City, they had Edgewood Park and there was Jerry Rice Hill. It was the folk lore. 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 and outworking people and never taking time off and really taking his craft seriously.
"Growing up around his family -- 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. He was a god in our area. But he’s definitely been an inspiration for his work ethic and how seriously he took his craft.
Rice's work ethic and dedication to training has always impressed Edelman.
"I remember Mrs. Rice told me a story once that after the (49ers) went to an NFC Championship Game or something and he had a great year, immediately after the season he wanted to lose five to 10 pounds. He started starving himself and running more, and this was 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 kind of was a pioneer for the professional athlete of nowadays. Now everyone is so specialized in training and this and dieticians and their craft. Jerry was doing that -- Mr. Rice was doing that in the ‘80s before it was so popularized like it is now. He’s been a huge inspiration to me. It's an honor to even be near anything of his in any kind of thing.”
Rice holds all of the coveted wide receiver records, including career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Some of his numbers are so staggering that it's tough to imagine any player coming close to matching them.
Edelman has been moving closer to two of Rice's playoff records in recent seasons. The Patriots wideout has 118 career postseason receptions, which ranks No. 2 all time behind Rice's 151. Edelman also ranks No. 2 all time with 1,442 career playoff receiving yards but still needs 803 more to tie Rice's record of 2,245 yards.
Edelman has struggled for most of the 2020 season, and he only caught two passes for eight yards in last week's loss to the Broncos. A better performance from Edelman on Sunday against the 49ers would go a long way in the Patriots passing attack building momentum as the playoff race heats up.