New England Patriots' wide receiver Julian Edelman thinks highly of his former teammate, Wes Welker. So highly, in fact, that he believes Welker essentially created the role that Edelman now fills for the Patriots.
"Wes is such a smart, intelligent football player," he told Kevin Duffy of MassLive.com. "He played a lot of years. He's a grinder, meaning he earned everything he got. He didn't start on 3rd. He had a long journey to being ultimately a revolutionary player who basically created a position."
Edelman continued his praise of the former slot-receiver extraordinaire, who is now serving as an assistant coach for the Houston Texans.
"Being in the locker room with him for so many years and being able to pick his brains and to see how just from how he practiced and how he played, it doesn't surprise me at all," Edelman said of Welker getting a coaching gig. "He was such a student of the game. He knew just about everything so it was one of those things being a coach, you know it's a grind, it's a huge thing, but he's a football guy. He loves the sport."
Welker, 36, spent six seasons with the Patriots, catching 672 passes for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns in that time. He made five Pro Bowls in that time and was a First Team All-NFL selection twice.
While Welker didn't invent the concept of the slot receiver, he not only mastered the role during his time with New England but helped to evolve it and popularize it in the modern NFL. And he certainly paved the way for players like Edelman to thrive in New England's offense.
Given his worth ethic and intelligence, Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick believes Welker will make an excellent coach.
"No, I think all of those guys—Wes, Larry [Izzo], Mike [Vrabel]—they're all players that I've had that were as hard of working players as I've coached that loved the game, that were grinders, that had that coaching mentality. ... They've all started at the bottom and worked their way up. I think Bill [O'Brien] has got an outstanding staff and I know those guys personally and have a ton of respect for them."