MARCH 28, 2006 — In the end, Julian Edelman went with his gut, and that’s never failed him.

It probably never will.

The Daily Journal learned that the College of San Mateo freshman signed a full-ride scholarship to play at Kent State University for the upcoming 2006 season. Edelman had arguably the greatest season by a quarterback in CSM history this past year. After throwing for 1,312 yards, rushing for 1,253 more and totaling a single-season school-record 30 touchdowns, Edelman earned just about every major junior college football honor, including the Region I California offensive player of the year. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound signal-caller led the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the powerful NorCal Conference and a 41-39 win over the College of the Sequoias in the inaugural Bulldog Bowl.

“I had a gut feeling to go to CSM, and my gut told me to go to Kent State,” Edelman said. “My gut has always steered me to the right place. My dream has always been to play Division I football. I’m living my dream right now.”

For Edelman, the dream came fast and furious. It was all set in motion a few weeks ago when Kent State called CSM coach Larry Owens after the starting quarterback for the Golden Flashes went down with a collarbone injury during spring practice, Edelman said. Owens relayed Kent State’s interest to Edelman, who visited the Ohio campus last week. Edelman was offered a full-ride scholarship on the spot, and stayed there for three days before flying back home to the Bay Area on Wednesday. For the next couple of days, Edelman weighed his options, one of the more stressful times in his life.

He didn’t want to leave the teammates and coaches and the program that had been so good for him, but at the same time, he knew he couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Once he got their approval, it helped put his mind at ease. Kent State is a solid Division I program that plays in the rising Mid-American Conference, the same league that has produced some of the NFL’s best talent, including Ben Roethlisberger, Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich and Randy Moss. The Golden Flashes play at Virginia Tech early in the season, and Edelman will be one of five quarterbacks bidding for the starter’s job.

“I went into my visit thinking I wasn’t going to commit,” he said. “But when I saw the team, the practices and the facility, I fell in love with the place. I wanted to see if I could live in Ohio for three years. It was cold — I’m a California kid, after all. I’m a 5-10 quarterback, and you don’t see many of those around. I had to jump on this opportunity and see where it takes me.”

Edelman’s situation is unique in the fact that he’s transferring after his freshman season. Typically, most players at a junior college can only transfer after their sophomore season. But Edelman entered CSM as an academic qualifier, meaning he needed to complete 24 units to transfer. Non-academic qualifiers must complete 42-60 units to transfer. While Owens and CSM offensive coordinator Bret Pollack no doubt would have loved for Edelman to stay, they were happy to see another one of their star players move on. Edelman is the fourth Bulldogs’ quarterback in the last five years to earn a scholarship, and the seventh player from last year’s juggernaut of a team moving on to the next level.

“I told Julian the whole purpose of coming to CSM was to create an opportunity that he didn’t have before, and he did that,” Pollack said. “Julian is the most athletic QB we’ve had since I’ve been here. He could make plays, and you can’t teach that.”

Edelman’s dreamy ascent was a meteoric one, characterized by perfect sequence after perfect sequence. After he guided Woodside to a Central Coast Section championship in his senior year, he soon found himself in limbo. Edelman was discouraged until CSM called, which turned out to be a match made in heaven. He came in splitting time with last year’s starter, Kevin Linnell, but he grabbed hold of the starter’s job in the team’s third game against Sequoias and never looked back, the turning point of his burgeoning career. With CSM trailing by 21 points, Edelman entered the game and promptly threw two interceptions.

“I thought it was all over, but coach Pollack had faith in me,” Edelman said. “We came back and even though we lost by two, that was the crucial part of my learning experience. Coach O showed faith in me and gave me the chance to be comfortable and showcase my abilities. I didn’t have to worry about having that monkey on my back and losing a start. They believed in me, and that was a huge part of my success.”

Said Owens: “You hate to see a guy like that go, but you can’t tell a kid to turn down an opportunity like that. It’s great for Julian and his family. Our job is to take a kid like Julian and move him on.”

Amazingly, there was talk of Edelman taking a grayshirt last season, but the competitor inside him would have none of that.

“There was a chance heading into this that I wouldn’t play (right away at CSM),” Edelman said. “I took the risk, made the decision not to grayshirt and I’m glad I stuck with my heart.”

His heart has taken him a long way.

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