The diminutive wide receiver known as “The Squirrel” becomes first Jewish player to win Super Bowl MVP trophy after his key plays help lift New England Patriots to 13-3 victory over Los Angeles Rams • “Tough times don’t last, tough people do,” he says.

New England Patriots’ Julian Edelman celebrates after winning Super Bowl LIII, Sunday |
 Photo: Reuters

The New England Patriots’ Julian Edelman, an undersized wide receiver few thought would ever make a name for himself in the NFL, became the first Jewish player to win the Super Bowl MVP trophy on Sunday after his key plays helped lift New England to a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

The speedy 32-year-old, nicknamed “The Squirrel,” was quarterback Tom Brady’s most reliable target on Sunday, providing an offensive spark every time it was needed en route to his third championship with the team.

In a game where both offenses struggled to find the end zone, Edelman made the most of his opportunities, catching 10 of the 12 passes thrown his way for 141 yards while rushing once for 8 yards.

Edelman, 32, is one of only a handful of Jewish players in the league and over time he has embraced that side of his identity. He has a Jewish father but was not raised Jewish. Drafted in 2009, he only started making a name for himself in the league in 2013.

Since then, he has shown his Jewish pride on a number of occasions. In a 2014 game, he wore a pin featuring the Israeli flag. He has tweeted about Jewish holidays, has attended a Birthright-style trip to Israel and has written a children’s book that references Theodor Herzl, the modern-day founder of Zionism.

But after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October 2018 that killed 11, he wore special cleats with Hebrew on them to honor the victims, and following the Patriots Nov. 4 victory over the Green Bay Packers, he wore an Israeli baseball cap for his postgame interviews as a shoutout to those in Pittsburgh.

“It’s disgusting what happened. And I’m just backing them up,” he said in a follow-up interview. “I’m proud of who I am and what I am. Just to let these victims know: ‘We’re all with you. This is a very tough time for you. I can’t even imagine. But you have support.'”

“It’s not like one of those things where you’re gonna put your head under the ground and kind of hide,” he said. “You’re gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s what makes us stronger.'”

Edelman is one of the most unlikely Super Bowl MVPs in league history.

He was taken 232nd in the 2009 NFL draft after not even being invited to participate in league tryouts, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick managed to shape him into a key component of the team’s offensive attack.

Edelman said he was focused on getting the team back to the championship after a torn ACL forced him to miss all of last season and he had to watch the Patriots fall to the Philadelphia Eagles in last year’s Super Bowl.

“My head was down, just trying to go out and try to win ballgames and help the team,” he said.

“Tough times don’t last, tough people do,” he said.

“I preach that and I guess you have to live to it.”

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