Over 100 million people are expected to tune into the football game this Sunday. They’ll be watching 92 athletes compete on the biggest stage in American sports—but that won’t include one of the heroes from last year’s game.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman made what was widely regarded as the 2017 play of the year in sports: a deflected, off-a-knee, juggling catch among three opponents to keep the football inches off the ground, and his team alive in the largest comeback in the game’s history.
Tom Brady called it one of the greatest catches he’d ever seen.
But after suffering a season-ending knee injury this past summer, all Edelman can do in this year’s game is root for his teammates.
His spirits remain high, though. We had the chance to meet Edelman for a video shoot, capturing how he uses Dropbox for his off-the-field creative projects. We all noticed how upbeat and positive he was—especially for someone who’s not able to do the thing he loves most.
Edelman is no aloof star athlete. After he asked how long I’ve been at Dropbox and some bonding over our shared Bay Area roots, I asked him what he’s been up to. “The rehab’s going really well,” he said. “And doing things like this—videos, getting new gear out there, books. We just released Flying High 2, so we’re excited.”
An unlikely partnership
“We” consists of Edelman and his friends and partners at Superdigital, a marketing agency along the Charles River in Boston. Edelman first met Assaf Swissa, now-Creative Director at Superdigital, at Swissa’s father’s hair salon. Edelman wasn’t playing regularly for the team at the time, and the two formed a genuine friendship.
Working with Edelman (and Dropbox), Superdigital has emerged as the creative team behind Julian’s YouTube channel, “JE11” lifestyle brand, social media presence, and other projects. With 3.5 million followers on social, Edelman is now one of the most beloved personalities in the league on and off the field.
“Meeting Assaf just ignited this whole thing,” Edelman says. “Fans don’t always get to see who you really are, and being able to express my creative side has been fun. This has been a tough year, for sure. But I’m keeping my body and mind sharp and doing things that are fulfilling.”
One of those fulfilling projects has been Edelman’s second children’s book, Flying High 2 (co-written with Swissa). Jules the Squirrel overcomes the odds to keep up with Tom the Goat and Dont’a the Rhino—much like real-life Julian was an undersized, unheralded draft prospect.
“When someone's chasing their dream and a person says, ‘you can't do it,’ sometimes those people quit,” he says. “It's not just in athletics—it's in anything. So that was huge, being able to use our platform to spread the message of that underdog story and staying relentless.”
Getting to the magic
Like football, producing both Flying High books was a team effort. And that’s where Dropbox Paper came in. Edelman, Swissa, and the Superdigital team crafted the story and illustrations in Paper, passing ideas back and forth especially when Edelman was between rehab sessions and not able to visit Superdigital’s office.
“Julian’s got this hungry energy. He wants to make, he wants to build, he wants to do, and we love writing together,” Swissa says. “With Paper, you can see all of his comments in real time, and so we're ideating in real time, and that's so necessary for the creative process. If you have a head of steam and you have to stop for a distraction, it kills the flow. That doesn’t happen with Paper, and that’s how we get to the magic.”