Published in the Oct. 26, 2016 issue
Six years after the birth of the Crusader football team, a special player joined the team in 2004. His name — Jerrell Freeman.
Freeman now plays for the Chicago Bears and has years of success following his time at UMHB. Because of his success, the university retired Freeman’s jersey and number during the homecoming showdown against Hardin Simmons Saturday.
Head Football Coach Pete Fredenburg presented Freeman with a framed replica of his jersey midfield during halftime. Joining Coach Fredenburg and Freeman were President Randy O’Rear, his wife Julie, Freeman’s mother and father, and Cru Vice President of Athletics Randy Mann.
Freeman’s nieces and brother unveiled a marker located in the south end zone bearing a number 8, a few of his athletic accomplishments, and his last name. This permanent marker will remain in Crusader Stadium as a reminder for past players and as a motivator for future players.
To celebrate the retiring of the jersey, the first 3,000 people who walked through the gates Saturday received a commemorative T-shirt with Freeman’s name and number.
Freeman played varsity ball for the Cru for four years, and he helped lead the Cru to their first post-season win in 2004. He also became the first American Southwest Conference player to be named a National Player of the Year when d3football.com voted him National Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. The American Southwest Conference named him Male Athlete of the Year in 2007-08. He also became the university’s leader in tackles.
Following his Cru football career, Freeman signed with the Tennessee Titans. He went on to play for the Canadian Football League team, the Saskatatchewan Roughriders, where he was named an All-Star. Three years later he would sign with the Indianapolis Colts, where he led the team in tackles for two seasons.
Currently, Freeman plays for the Chicago Bears where he leads in tackles in his league.
When Freeman came to UMHB to play ball, he never would have imagined how far he would come.
“I just came here [UMHB] because I love the game,” Freeman said. “I just wanted to be the best player that I could be, and it has allowed me to be who I am today.”
Freeman officially became a UMHB grad in 2003 when inbetween a football season he finished his degree in criminal justice.
No other football player has ever been honored in such a way, and according to Vice President for Communications and Special Projects Dr. Paula Tanner, the decision to honor him this way was made by the coaching staff and members of the upper level administration.
According to a recent press release, head Coach Frendenberg believes Freeman is a special player because of his dedication and love of the university.
“The thing that makes him so remarkable, so special, is that he loves Mary Hardin-Baylor, he supports the university, and he carries our name and tradition with him.”