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INDIANAPOLIS — No one can accuse the Indianapolis Colts’ leading tackler of not paying his dues.
Linebacker Jerrell Freeman is what persistence looks like — a man playing his second season in the NFL when so many his age are about to complete their fifth or sixth.
But the route you have to take to achieve a dream is the route you take.
No one understands that better than Freeman, 27, the NFL’s lone representative of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, an NCAA Division III power located in Belton, Texas, a 45-minute drive from Freeman’s hometown of Waco.
After going undrafted in 2008, Freeman signed with the Tennessee Titans. He never made it above the practice squad and was released before the start of the regular season.
Think the Titans would like him now?
Pro Bowl bound?
Name: Jerrell Freeman
Born: Waco, Texas
Weight: 232 pounds
High school: University, Waco, Texas (2004)
College: Mary Hardin-Baylor (2008)
Drafted: Undrafted in 2008 NFL Draft
Did you know? Freeman graduated from the same high school in Waco that produced former San Diego Chargers great LaDainian Tomlinson ... Participated as a member of the West Team in the 2011 Canadian Football League All-Star Game ... Twice named a Division-III all-American in college.
With 113 tackles, Freeman is eight ahead of veteran safety Antoine Bethea as Indianapolis prepares for Sunday’s game at Kansas City. He also has tallied 3½ sacks and an interception and trails only Robert Mathis in forced fumbles with four.
Some have even dared to exhale the words “Pro Bowl” within earshot of Freeman.
To the linebacker’s credit, he’s not biting.
“It’s just the culture. Of course we have individual goals, but I just want the team to do well,” Freeman said. “Whatever I have to do to help the team out.
“You want to be a Pro Bowl player as an individual, but as long as we’re getting these wins, I couldn’t care less.”
Three seasons spent in the Canadian Football League (2009-11) as a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders were invaluable to Freeman. He got bigger, stronger and better north of the border, earning CFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2011.
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, himself a CFL alum having played in Toronto in 1997 and scouted for Saskatchewan the following season, took notice.
Indianapolis signed Freeman in January 2012. Eight months later he was starting for the Colts in their opener at Chicago, beginning the game’s scoring with an interception return for a touchdown.
He’s been a consistent force ever since.
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