FLORENCE — Junior Lendell Freeman transferred from Round Rock Cedar Ridge to Florence this year. After handling return duties for the Buffaloes against Rosebud-Lott, he started against Thrall and Thorndale, racking up 26 carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns, including a 71-yarder.
What is it like getting your first chance to start for a varsity team?
It’s pretty good. Me starting is like, “This is what reality is.” If you really want to take your skills to the next level, this is how it’s going to be, so you really have to show how much you like it. Me starting is like, “Wow, you’re starting.” So you really got to show that this is what you want to do.
You’ve had two tough losses, but you had that (23-0) shutout win against Thrall. What has this season been like?
Those two losses, they really didn’t devastate us too much. A lot of people say, “Oh, this is how it’s going to be,” but in my eyes, it’s like, two losses, it shows you that, if you take these losses and you put them in your mind and you think about it, it’s like, “What did you do wrong in those losses?” And then, when we shut out Thrall, it’s like, “What did you do right?” When we got shut out by Rosebud, we watched film and we went over it in practice, and that’s the key thing is practice, and it was like, “This is what we need to do.” And then when we shut out Thrall, we thought we could come back, and we thought we could beat Thorndale, and that’s not what really happened. We got shut out ourselves. We need to focus more.
You said you were shut out by Rosebud-Lott?
It was 48-6. It wasn’t really a shutout, but it was a day they had more points than us, obviously. So, it’s like, “Just because maybe you beat them or were close last year, don’t think you can do the same thing, because it’s not going to happen.”
Against Thrall, you went off for 117 yards and two touchdowns. What did that feel like?
It felt pretty good. It was hot that day, so it felt good, and then, it was like, “You got two touchdowns.” And then whenever I broke out for that big run, it was like, “This is eye-opening. You can do a lot, you just got to put your mind to it.” And getting 117 yards is like, “You can get a lot of yards if you try and put your mind to it.” It was pretty big. It was pretty good.
When did you know you were going to transfer here?
I knew when my mom let me know at the end of last year’s school year. She let me know, so that’s when I came out here. They were doing 7-on-7 and then powerlifting. So I came out here and I did the 7-on-7, and that’s when I got to meet coach (Paul) Smith and all the skill players, and then I let them know, “This is where I’m going to be.” That’s how I got in touch with coach Smith, so I started talking to him.
What have you learned from football?
Building character, basically. If you don’t build character, how can you build yourself to be a better person in life? Playing football is like, “What do you do in school?” If you don’t pass, you don’t play. So if you really want to play, what do you have to do? You have to pass. That’s how you stay on track. If you slip, you’re done. It builds character a lot for me.
How have you applied what you’ve learned to life?
I guess you could say, if you take things for granted, then there’s nothing you get out of it. You want to take some things for granted, but then you don’t want to take everything you can for granted because it could end up messing up a lot of things. Say if you go out and you’re a good athlete, and you go out and slip and go to a party or something, you don’t want to get caught up in that party and you don’t want to be there.
Just stay home, sit down and do something else instead of going out there and try to party with your friends. You have a good life and you slip up, and, bam, it’s gone. So, that’s what I’ve learned in life.
What is it like to work with coach Paul Smith?
Oh, it’s a pleasure. He has his serious side, and then you’re like, “All right.” When he wants to have his funny side, he has his funny side. You tend to learn him and see what he likes to do and you laugh about it, and you have fun. It’s a great honor to work with him and I can’t wait until (the rest of) this season and the next season, and I’m just really happy to be here.