Julian Edelmantweeted a letter he received via snail mail from one of his former teachers expressing regret over a “flippant” comment made back in 2006. At that time, Edelman was a 5-foot-9, two-star dual-threat quarterback headed to a MAC school. The English teacher apparently told his student to set realistic goals after learning of Edelman’s confidence he’d eventually be in the NFL.
You know the rest of the story, which includes overcoming long odds and dramatic catches catapulting the New England Patriots to multiple Super Bowls.
While it’s useful to get a behind-the-scenes look at what motivates professional athletes, it’s hard not to feel for this poor teacher. He’s clearly been holding onto this regret for a long time whereas Edelman likely filed it under a mountain of similar doubts he encountered along the way. And to an outsider, the apology seems totally unnecessary, considering the probabilities at play.
It was probably a safe bet that a diminutive quarterback playing in a non-power conference with suspect arm strength wasn’t going to become an NFL signalcaller. Technically, the teacher was correct in this assumption. How was he to know Bill Belichick would pick up on Edelman’s potential as a slot receiver and pair him with an all-time great in Tom Brady?
Moreover, I’m not totally convinced tempered expectations was the wrong thing to do — especially in aggregate. For every success story like Edelman, there’s 99 cases where big dreams were never realized and the athlete found out too late that a back-up plan would have come in handy. There’s a big difference in crushing a 10-year-old’s dream of becoming an NFL superstar and reminding an 18-year-old of the long odds. Reality is coming much faster at the latter.
So, while it’s a nice sentiment expressed in the letter, one hopes the professor hasn’t done too much flagellation over the incident. That said, perhaps every athlete needs a healthy dose of doubt to fuel the fire. The proof could be in the hysterical lengths players and teams will do to find slights, no matter how insignificant.
Maybe the professor was simply another log in the fire that helped Edelman’s passion burn hot and eventually led to greatness. Just a higher education enthusiast doling out life lessons.
Or maybe he — and I — are jerks.