Many “boys of fall” aspire to play football in college but only dream about playing for the NFL. This dream is coming true for UMHB’s own Jerrell Freeman, who was signed by the Indianapolis Colts three weeks ago.
From University High School in Waco, to UMHB, to Canadian Football League, and now NFL, Freeman has an impressive football record.
“If you want to do something and have the passion for it, go for it,” he said.
Freeman played as a defensive end for the Cru from 2004 to 2007 and is still the all-time leader in tackles for the school.
The Tennessee Titans drafted him during his senior year. At the time, he was a Cru team captain, named Defensive Player of the Year by D3football.com and three-time American Southwestern Conference First Team All-Conference selection.
“UMHB has a really good (football) program, “ Freeman said. “They trained me well.”
The CFL drafted Freeman after the Titans cut him before the season. He played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the worst team in the league at the time.
In the three years he played for the team, he quickly made a name for himself by winning the CFL Defensive Player of the Week three times, runner-up for CFL Defensive Player of the Year even though he led the CFL with 144 tackles, 13 sacks, three interceptions and four fumbles.
He was also named CFL All-Star and led his team to two CFL Grey Cup games.
After his contract was up with the CFL, Freeman was scheduled to visit and work out with several different NFL teams, but his tour was cut short when the Colts gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“A UMHB player making it to the NFL has a major impact on us,” Vice President for Athletics Ben Shipp said. “It provides name recognition for UMHB and gains us another level of respect with the media and football establishment.”
Shipp explains that it is a cycle. By recruiting good players, keeping good players, and continuing to win, more good players are drawn in, and the cycle continues.
“It was always school, football, football, football growing up, and it just happened,” Freeman said. “It helped being on the front line of a great team, but I definitely never thought ‘NFL’ when I went into D3.”
With 11 hours left to complete his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from UMHB, Freeman struggles to find the time to finish his classes after football took him away before he could graduate.
He stresses the importance of obtaining a college degree even for professional athletes and wants to set an example for other players who rely solely on football.
“You go to college to get a good job to make money, and I have that opportunity now, but it is important to be responsible and finish what you started,” Freeman said. “Plus my momma would kill me if I don’t walk across that stage.”
After his football career, Freeman plans on being a coach. He draws a lot of his motivation from his dad who “worked his way to the top from the very bottom” and taught him the importance of a good work ethic. “Hard work pays off” is a saying that has stuck with him through the years and that keeps his drive strong. He has certainly proved that statement true.
Freeman believes that passion and always staying humble is key to being a good football player.
“Jerrell has a great work ethic,” secondary defensive graduate assistant Coach Cody Harvey said. “He’s worked very hard and earned this opportunity.”
Head Coach of Cru football Pete Fredenburg was ecstatic that Freeman was signed by the Colts.
“He was a great player for us,” Fredenburg said. “He’s gone to Canada and just been a remarkable player. He had 10 or 15 different NFL teams trying to get him to sign. We were so thrilled that he picked Indianapolis.”
Freeman’s ultimate goal is to win a championship. His contract with the Colts is set for three years, and he plans to leave for Indianapolis for offseason in mid-April. Until then, he stays in shape by working out daily at UMHB’s field house.