From the Gridiron to Graduation: Julian Edelman Completes Passes and Kent State Degree

He has won Super Bowls. He has received the Super Bowl MVP award. And on May 11, 2019, he achieved his latest victory: earning a college degree.

A helmet and pads were replaced by a cap and gown for New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman as he finished a journey he started in 2005 at the College of San Mateo before transferring to Kent State University in 2006. He joined 5,300 new Kent State graduates at the One University Commencement held at Dix Stadium, the same field where he completed passes on Saturday afternoons more than a decade ago. This time, Mr. Edelman, 32, walked across the commencement stage, accepted his bachelor’s degree and celebrated with his fellow Golden Flashes.

“To fulfill a promise with my parents is ultimately one of the biggest reasons why I came back,” Mr. Edelman said. “My whole journey has been a team effort, and that team I’m talking about is my family. They’ve been in my corner through the highs to the lows. They’re the ones that have pushed me to heights that I thought I’d never get to.

“Earning my degree from Kent means a lot to me,” Mr. Edelman continued. “This is one of my first parts of my journey where it all started. Getting here and having my parents here and my family to witness this is one of the first goals that I had going into my young adult life. So, to be able to come here and fulfill that, it’s unbelievable.”

Melody Tankersley, Ph.D., Kent State’s senior associate provost and dean of graduate studies, shared her excitement regarding Mr. Edelman’s newest achievement.

“What a great accomplishment for Julian!” Dr. Tankersley said. “He turned that same relentless determination and drive you witness on the field to his goal of completing his academic program. Julian poured himself into this final push to earn his degree with great success. He has always been an incredible Golden Flash, and his graduation provides us a new reason to celebrate our outstanding family member!”

Kent State works with former students to help them cross the finish line and earn their degree. For Mr. Edelman, he returned to his studies at Kent State and earned a Bachelor of Integrative Studies degree.

“Our academic services staff does a great job of assisting former student-athletes in creating a path toward degree completion,” said Joel Nielsen, Kent State’s director of athletics. “And when Julian has a goal in front of him, there’s no stopping him. Commencement is such a special day for so many people at Kent State University, and to see Julian in a cap and gown with the other graduates makes it even more memorable for everyone. We’re so proud of Julian!”

On his commencement day, Mr. Edelman expressed how he was feeling.

“I definitely feel proud,” he said. “I’m proud to come back to Kent State and fulfill what I started and what I set out to do.” 

Super Bowl MVP

Mr. Edelman, a native of Redwood City, California, capped off Super Bowl LIII this past February with a victory for the New England Patriots and claimed the highest honor awarded to a player during the championship game of the National Football League (NFL).
The former Kent State quarterback and proud alumnus was named the Most Valuable Player, becoming the first Mid-American Conference student-athlete to receive this title. He is the seventh wide receiver to receive the Super Bowl MVP award.
During the Patriots 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams, Mr. Edelman had 10 catches for 141 yards, which was more than half of the team’s total receiving yards. Eight of his catches were for first downs, and six of his catches were for 10 yards or more. His performance helped lift the Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl win.
Mr. Edelman currently has 115 career postseason catches for 1,412 yards, ranking second to Pro Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl XXIII MVP Jerry Rice.
Previously, Mr. Edelman has appeared in Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants, Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks and Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons. He was injured last year and was unable to take part in the Patriots loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.
Mr. Edelman was drafted by New England in the seventh round of the NFL Draft in 2009. While he was a quarterback for the Kent State Golden Flashes, he has blossomed as a star wide receiver in the NFL.

Connections at Kent State

In addition to his professional football career, Mr. Edelman still maintains his ties with Kent State.
“I learned so much from my time at Kent,” Mr. Edelman told Kent State in November 2017. “The experiences I had there definitely helped shape me into the player and person I am today. I will always be grateful for the opportunity Coach Martin gave me and for the friends I met there.”
Mr. Edelman co-hosted an athletics department auction in 2014, was the Grand Marshal of the Kent State Homecoming Parade in 2015 and was inducted into the Kent State Varsity “K” Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015. He also keeps in close contact with his former teammates and coaches.
“He’s never lost sight of where he came from,” former Kent State coach Doug Martin told KentWired in October 2015. “He’s very appreciative of Kent State for giving him an opportunity. A lot of times, guys lose sight of that. I think that says a lot about who he is.”

Mr. Edelman was starting quarterback for the Kent State Golden Flashes from 2006-2008. Josh Cribbs, another former Kent State quarterback who played for the Golden Flashes from 2001-04, also returned to his alma mater to finish his degree while playing for the Cleveland Browns. In May 2010, Mr. Cribbs earned his bachelor’s degree and participated in the commencement ceremony held at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center. 
Want to know more about the new Kent State graduate? Read “11 Fast Facts About Julian Edelman” from the fall 2015 issue of Kent State Magazine.
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POSTED: Saturday, May 11, 2019 02:49 PM
UPDATED: Friday, December 09, 2022 07:33 AM
Emily Vincent