A League of His Own: Cru Football star Jerrell Freeman finds success as professional athlete
By Jennifer Meers Jones ’08
Former Crusader football linebacker Jerrell Freeman is all about setting precendent. In 2008, Freeman became the first UMHB football player to sign a National Football League contract. He signed a free-agent deal with the Tennessee Titans shortly after the completion of the NFL draft. His stint with the Titans lasted until that August, when he was one of the last players cut during training camp. In March 2009, Freeman signed a free-agent deal with Canadian Football League team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Freeman has played with the Roughriders for two years. His first season earned him the Roughriders’ Rookie of the Year award. He was also nominated for the CFL’s league-wide Rookie of the Year.
Coming into the league, Freeman said he set his sights high.
“My expectations were pretty lofty, as my goals usually are. If I wasn’t going to be able to be a starter, I wanted to be a big contributor on defense. But my role for my first year was to be a great special teams player, and special teams helped me get nominated for Rookie of the Year,” Freeman said.
In his second season with the Roughriders, the team advanced to the 97th annual Grey Cup championship. Freeman said the experience took him back to another National Championship he had the opportunity to be part of.
“The Grey Cup was pretty crazy. It was the most fans and the biggest game I’ve ever played in. It reminded me of my freshman year at UMHB—going to the Stagg Bowl and just taking it all in.”
Freeman’s football career started as a defensive end at University High School in Waco. He began his first season as a linebacker at Mary Hardin-Baylor in 2004. Freeman finished his last college season as the school’s career leader in tackles and was named the American Southwest Conference Player of the Year four times.
Freeman said his experience with the Cru prepared him for professional football, something he attributes to the quality of coaches on staff.
“UMHB football, especially their coaching staff, has done more for me than you will ever know,” Freeman said. “From top to bottom, the coaching staff is filled with classy and driven individuals. They helped me mature and grow into the man I am today. UMHB football taught me one major thing; that if you want something—in football or life—you better be willing to put in the time and work. And after that, get back on that horse and work some more!”