Jerrell Freeman’s journey from Mary Hardin-Baylor to Indianapolis wasn’t an easy one, and even included a detour into Canada, but during the 2013 season, the Colts linebacker enjoyed another trip to the postseason.
Freeman established himself as one of the Colts’ top linebackers and helped the team win its first playoff game without Peyton Manning since 1996.
The former Cru player accounted for 126 tackles — including 83 solo — two interceptions, six forced fumbles and two recoveries in 2013.
Freeman played for UMHB from 2004 until 2007 and left campus as the all-time leader in tackles.
Freeman originally signed with the Tennessee Titans in 2008, but was released later that year. He went on to play three seasons for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.
Freeman chatted with the Herald’s Albert Alvarado about the 2013 season.
What were you thoughts about the 2013 season?
We didn’t achieve our ultimate goal, which was a Super Bowl win, but we overcame a lot of adversity to have a great season. We still got some wins and everybody counted us out with all the injuries and everything. Next year should be promising, and from an individual standpoint, I had a pretty good year, But I can always do better. I’m pretty hard on myself, but I had a pretty good year.
There aren’t very many NCAA Division III players in the NFL. How much work did you put into getting to the NFL?
It’s taken a lot of work. It’s one of those things that you just try to run through a brick wall every chance you get to try to achieve your goals. Coming from D3, I had the opportunity to get into the league at first. I ended up being cut and having to go to Canada. I’ve been here trying to be a role player, trying to work my way up through the ranks and just doing anything to get an opportunity. Once I got the opportunity, understanding what you’re told to do, know the playbook and just progress.
After being cut by the Titans in 2008, did the thought of giving up on football ever cross your mind?
I always thought that I could play; I just needed a real, legitimate opportunity to show what I could do. It was pretty stacked at linebacker when I went to Tennessee. And I can’t say that I had a real legitimate chance to show everything I could show because they were so stacked. I ended up being cut there, but I got that opportunity when I went to Canada and I just got thrown in the fire. I was able to get out there and progress every week and make plays. It gave me an opportunity to come here.
Why did you choose to attend UMHB?
I wanted to go to a place that wanted me. It was close to home; they had a real winning tradition. Going on recruiting trips, they showed me rings and stuff, but I wanted to go to a place that wanted me and won. I really didn’t have a huge opportunity to go anywhere else. It was either UMHB or another Division III college. I wanted to go someplace that actually wanted me to be there.
Do your remember what your first NFL game experience was like?
I think it was that Chicago game and the first real play I got to get in. I wouldn’t say it was scary because I really didn’t have too much time to do any thinking. I got the play call, tried to figure out what I was doing, so I really didn’t have too much time to think about being nervous or anything. I just got out there and did what I was called to do.
How hard is it to stay in the league and make a career for yourself?
You probably hear everyone say that it’s one thing to get into the NFL, but it’s even harder to stay in. You’ve got to be consistent, you’ve got to make sure that you’re needed and do everything to show that you’re an asset. That’s pretty much it. Just keep getting better, do everything that they brought you to do and show what you’ve got.
How intense and special are NFL playoff games?
Everything is just stepped up a notch. When we played our home game, the atmosphere was different. The crowds were even more crazed and it was probably the loudest crowd that I’ve been a part of. When we went to New England, it was crazy there. The margin of error it takes for things to happen, the intensity is stepped up a notch. You’ve got to be perfect with your techniques or those good teams will get you, man, they’ll pop you. That’s what happened in New England with the big plays. It’s crazy. It’s pretty intense.