By Paola Nunez
After playing his first season in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts, linebacker Jerrell Freeman is now back at UMHB for the spring semester to finish up his degree.
Freeman said friends, teachers and classmates welcomed him with open arms and lots of love and support, nothing short of what he expected from the school.
“I love it here. Small town. Small school. It’s a great atmosphere for me,” he said
Taking time out to finish his degree in criminal justice was an easy decision for Freeman to make.
He said, “That’s what I came to college for. Deciding to come to a Division III school, it wasn’t just to play in the NFL. I just wanted to further my education…. Football isn’t going to be here forever.”
Head football Coach Pete Fredenburg said he continued to remind Freeman to come back for his bachelor’s degree during the time that he’s been gone, and was happy to see him stick to his commitment to finish college.
“The hardest thing for guys that come into an incredible amount of money is to stay grounded. It says so much about that young man because here’s a guy that all of a sudden he’s got incredible amounts of money and prestige, and what does he do? He comes back to Belton to finish his degree, and that’s special,” Fredenburg said.
Associate Professor Effel Harper said, “I have talked to him throughout the time that he’s been gone and kept stressing to him that getting his degree is important…. Now I’m glad to see him fixing to possibly graduate at the end of this semester.”
Freeman is taking advantage of what college experience he can still get during his time here, which may include attending his last spring formal at the university.
Deciding to play football at a small college made it slightly difficult to make it to the NFL Freeman said, but, “Nowadays how it goes, if you can play football, they’ll come find you, and they’ll give you the opportunity to play.”
After being drafted by the Colts in January 2012, Freeman said he didn’t have time to sit back and reflect on his accomplishment, but a celebration of his achievement was held by his former coaches on campus.
“We were all thrilled. Thrilled obviously for us because of the prestige that it carried for our program and for the university, but not nearly as thrilled as we were for Jerrell, because he is so dedicated and we just wanted him to reap the benefits of his dedication,” Fredenburg said.
As for the benefits that come with playing in the NFL, Freeman said “You are getting paid to play a kid’s game. You work hard, but you have fun at the same time and things couldn’t get better than that..”
“I’ve had a lot of success, and it’s pretty gratifying to actually see everybody still supporting me,” Freeman said, which is what makes his accomplishment truly enjoyable.
Since he left the university in 2007, Freeman has kept in touch with many people from the school, including university President Dr. Randy O’Rear and Harper, and, according to Fredenburg, he continues to represent the college.
Fredenburg said, “The thing that I think is one of the coolest things, happened when Dr. O’Rear and Dr. Theodore went to watch him in a preseason game; they went down to the bottom of the stadium while he was out warming up, and they hollered at him, and he came over, and when he smiled he flashed his mouthpiece, which was purple and gold.”
After many years of knowing Freeman, Harper said, “I don’t just see him as an Indianapolis Colts player…. He is just like any other human; he cares for his friends and family, and nothing will ever change that.”