While Indianapolis Colts’ veteran linebacker Robert Mathis deservedly received universal acclaim for his stellar play this year, another Colts’ defender quietly went about his business in putting together a highly productive season of his own.
Second-year inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman led the team in tackles with 126, finished second behind Mathis with 5.5 sacks and forced six fumbles during the regular season. On a defense ranked 26th against the run in 2013, Freeman is one of few who can hold their head high moving on to next season.
It hasn’t always been this good for the Waco, TX. native. Coming out of Mary Hardin-Baylor in 2008, Freeman declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft but was passed over by all 32 teams before a brief stint with the Tennessee Titans that would end prior to the start of the 2008 regular season. With his footballing future uncertain, Freeman made the bold decision to emigrate north in order to prove his talents in the CFL with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
After spending his first year on special teams, Freeman earned more snaps at linebacker during the 2010 season before cementing a starting role on the team in 2011. He finished the year with a league-high 105 tackles and CFL All-Star honors.
Freeman’s hard work paid off when he was offered a contract with the Colts prior to the 2012 season with his impact being felt immediately. In Week 1 against the Chicago Bears, Freeman intercepted quarterback Jay Cutler and returned the ball for a touchdown. He would go on to lead the team with a hugely impressive 145 combined tackles on the season.
This year saw Freeman elevate his game to the next level with the execution of several big plays. He more than doubled his sack total from last year and increased the number of forced fumbles by five. He has joked in the past that he doesn’t want to go back to playing football in Canada. If he continues to maintain the high standards set over the past two seasons, Freeman is sure to have a home in Indianapolis for many years to come.