When you think of the Indianapolis Colts defense, you think of players like Robert Mathis, LaRon Landry and Vontae Davis. However, a player who is rarely mentioned until game time is inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman.
Photo courtesy of Colts.com
Outside of Indiana, most people are not familiar with Freeman’s story. He played for Division III University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. In 2008, he was signed as an undrafted free agent to the Tennessee Titans, but did not end of making the roster. Following his release from the Titans, he played three years for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, where he developed into one of the CFL’s most dominant defensive players. In January of 2012, Freeman became new Colts general manager Ryan Grigson’s very first free agent signing.
In 2012, Freeman started all of the team’s 17 games (including playoffs) and amassed a team record 145 tackles, 2 sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown. For an inside linebacker, those are pretty stellar numbers that you would expect to see from guys like Patrick Willis or Derrick Johnson. However, for some reason Freeman hardly ever comes up in conversations regarding the league’s best linebackers. He debuted in 2012 with fellow linebackers like Luke Kuechly, Lavonte David, Daryl Washington and Bobby Wagner who all made names for themselves in solid defenses. Those players are all great, but it’s about time followers of the NFL get familiar with Freeman.
Through 11 games in 2013, Freeman has 88 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He played a large part in the Colts’ upset over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5 and has been one of the most consistent performers on the entire Colts roster through the team’s seven wins, as well as their four losses. Freeman has had at least eight tackles in eight of the eleven games, and at least ten tackles in three games.
At 6’0”, 232lbs, Freeman is small by NFL starting linebacker standards, but he has the talent and skills to perform at an all-star level as he has shown through his 27 career games.
Colts linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald told Kevin Bowen of Colts.com “It’s been a real joy to watch him get better at the things he’s doing and he continually is trying to do the things better that we are teaching him. We’re able to take him to different steps in his game in terms of, not only from a mental standpoint, but a physical standpoint.”
It’s that trust from his coaches and teammates that have played a role in Freeman becoming one of the team’s leaders and best all-around players.
The NFL’s Pro Bowl balloting was opened recently, and this year Freeman makes a strong case to be voted into the league’s all-star game. He ranks 8th among the AFC’s leading tacklers, but only one player above him, Baltimore’s Daryl Smith, has as many sacks as Freeman.
Now that you know a bit about Freeman, pay attention to #50 on the Colts’ defense. Not that it will take much effort – Freeman will jump off of the screen for you while he is making plays all over the field.