Julian Edelman at NFL: Super Bowl LIII-New England Patriots Press Conference.
(photo credit: USA TODAY)
It's not every day that one hears the words Jewish and MVP of one of the highest ranking sports games on the globe in the same sentence.
But New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who identifies as Jewish, was elected most valuable player on Sunday night after his team beat the Los Angeles Rams in a 13-3 victory in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.
As if that wasn't enough music to Jewish ears, Edelman even prided himself about being the first Jew ever to receive that honor in a snippet posted to Twitter by ESPN NFL reporter Mike Reiss.
When asked to repeat what he had just said, Edelman casually faces the camera before announcing "first Jewish MVP" while raising his eye brows and then leaving the frame.
Edelman, 32, is one of only a few Jewish players in the league, embracing that side of his identity over time. He has a Jewish father but was not raised in the religion, and through the Patriots front office would often defer on questions about his religion.
His is the quintessential surprise story: Undersized at 5-10 and less than 200 pounds, without blazing speed and coming from Kent State — not exactly Alabama — Edelman was picked toward the end of the last round of the 2009 draft. He didn’t establish himself as a standout until the 2013 season. Coincidentally or not, it was during his breakout year that Edelman identified as Jewish in an interview with the NFL Network.
Since then, he has shown his Jewish pride on a number of occasions. In a 2014 game, for instance, he wore a pin featuring the Israeli flag. He has tweeted about Jewish holidays. He even went on a Birthright-style trip to Israel, and has written a children’s book that references modern-day Zionism founder Theodor Herzl.
After the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October that killed 11, he wore special cleats with Hebrew on them to honor the victims.JTA contributed to this report.