This article is way overdue. To be exact, it is now four years overdue. On February 1, 2015, I was sitting at a hotel lounge in Las Vegas watching the Super Bowl and penning the mere beginnings of this story. Somehow, someway, the paper got stuffed into my pocket and was forgotten about in all the hustle and bustle of a new year.
For those of you who don’t know the name Julian Edelman, let me introduce you. Edelman is a wide receiver for the New England Patriots and was drafted by the Patriots football club in the 2009 NFL draft. His path to the NFL is not that of the prototype NFL football player. In high school he was dubbed too small to play at the major collegiate level. So he took an alternate path to a small college in California where he shined and then transferred to Kent State where he played quarterback and set multiple season records, breaking a few as well.
After college, he set his sights on the NFL but was once again dubbed too small to play at the NFL level. He was not even invited to the 2009 NFL combine. The Patriots had their eye on Edelman all along and had worked him out in several private workouts. On draft day, the Patriots drafted Edelman with the 27th pick of the seventh round: 232nd overall. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick phoned Edelman that same day and told him, “We don’t know where you will play … but we know that you can play and we want you.” The rest is history.
Fast forward to today: Edelman has been a superstar for the Patriots, making some of the best plays the sport has seen and has been a solid performer and contributor year after year. He was a key contributor for two Super Bowl wins and is quarterback Tom Brady’s go-to target. This past Sunday, after the Patriots’ dramatic AFC Championship win, there was talk of Edelman heading to the NFL Hall of Fame once he hangs up his cleats. All this from a guy who started his collegiate career at a no-name California school, San Mateo, because he was too small.
No, you haven’t accidentally clicked on the Sporting News link, and no, this is not a football Super Bowl pick. This is just a simple example of the world we live in in corporate America. Year after year after year, I hear terms like “war for talent,” “talent keeps me up at night,” “talent shortage,” and so on.
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There are plenty of talented people out there, but we as recruiters and hiring managers are too busy pointing out every reason why we shouldn’t hire someone versus focusing on all the reasons we should hire someone.
Going back and examining Coach Bill Belichick’s statement … his words are ultra-powerful and truly show why his team is without argue the greatest sports franchise of all time. The Patriots know how to find talent. They know how to incorporate talent into their business plan and into their culture. They get the best out of their talent and they take risks. They could have easily followed the masses and went with the narrative that Edelman was too small and not your ideal NFL height. But they didn’t, and I quote, “We don’t know where you will play … but we know that you can play and we will use you.”
I leave you to take in this example and go and recruit underdog talent. Find a winner. Maybe it’s someone who wasn’t lucky enough to finish their degree. Maybe it’s a stay-at-home mom or dad who has been out of the workforce for several years, or maybe it’s a veteran transitioning into Corporate America for the very first time …or just maybe it’s someone who was dubbed “too small to play.” Regardless of the reason, look for horsepower, look for winners and success, and for someone who is hungry and can make an impact. Find your Edelman. #findyouredelman