When a cardigan-clad Julian Edelman strolled into Emerson College’s social media class carrying sacks of UBURGER Thursday night, you wouldn’t have guessed he boasts a career 115 receptions, or is the NFL’s leader in punt-return average. The New England Patriots receiver is immediately likeable; and open about his love for the Food Network.
“I don’t really tweet anything about football,” Edelman said. “I just keep it…about me — me, movies, Top Chef, Chopped, the Food Network and fashion every once in a while.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is largely to blame, having put such tight restrictions on what his players say to the media, according to Edelman, who posited players can’t tweet within six hours of a game without getting slapped with a fine.
“I don’t tweet after losses,” Edelman added, “because then people say, ‘Why aren’t you focusing on football? Why are you at Emerson after losing to the New York Jets?'”
But, Emerson’s savviest students concocted a plan Edelman couldn’t resist.
“There was a lot of research that went into this,” said Emerson Social Media Professor David Gerzof prior to Edelman walking through the doors of the College’s Paramount Center. “The content you were tweeting…to connect with him was appropriate. It wasn’t just, ‘Hey, come talk to our class.'”
“I saw you guys tweeting at me, plain and simple,” Edelman said. As had former Patriots wide receiver Chad Johnson (formerly Chad Ochocinco) and tight end Rob Gronkowski — both of whom helped teach Emerson Social Media for a night semesters before.
After seeing hundreds of tweets, all accompanied by the hashtag #Edelman2Emerson, Edelman responded to the class on Friday, tweeting, “Let’s make it happen.” Within a week, the Patriots player was waltzing into class, discussing his earliest days on Myspace.
Originally, Edelman used social media to meet people, post videos he enjoyed or “look at the little girls in [his] class.” Now, some of those motivations still live, but only “to let people feel the other side of the athlete,” not just him as an athlete.
“The people around here love their sports, so it’s a huge tool for athletes to grow their brand,” Edelman said, repeating the word “authentic.” Every tweet or Instagram he sends “comes from a place of authenticity,” even if it’s in response to a critic. “Kill them with kindness,” Edelman assured the class, adding, “You need to take it with a grain of salt.”
The students didn’t take what he said with a grain of salt, however. Poised on the edge of their chairs, they snapped photos and fired off questions, before asking for autographs and posing in a group shot. True to his words, Edelman was charming. He tweeted back at Gerzof after leaving the class, saying:
— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) October 25, 2013
That move, in itself, sums up Edelman’s strategy — a strategy that’s led to nearly 120,000 Twitter followers.
“I use social media basically to connect with people that support me and what I do for New England,” Edelman said. “It also helps me to get my brand out there for other things, to allow fans or supporters to know what I do.”
For a closer look at Edelman’s visit, check out the photos below.