By Tony Adams
The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor retired the jersey number of former UMHB linebacker Jerrell Freeman at halftime of the Crusader’s 20-15 victory over Hardin-Simmons on Saturday at Crusader Stadium in Belton.
The UMHB Athletic and Sports Information Department put together the ceremony via a video package and framed-jersey presentation to Freeman and his family members on the field. A stainless steel statue of Freeman’s number 8 was gleaming on display in the north end zone under the scoreboard, which listed his accomplishments of when we donned the purple and gold in Belton. He was named a D3football.com All-American in 2006 and 2007 and was named the D3football.com Defensive Player of the Year in 2007.
Freeman’s travels following his time in Belton were many. After his time in Belton, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans in 2008, becoming the first UMHB player to be offered a National Football League contract. He was released shortly before the 2008 season.
From 2009-2011, he played for the Saskatchewan Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League, leading the league in tackles in 2011 with 105.
The Indianapolis Colts signed him in Jan. 16, 2012 and in his first NFL game against the Chicago Bears, he returned an interception for a touchdown. He played four seasons with the Colts and is in his first year with the Bears. Through 64 career NFL games, Freeman has 364 tackles, 223 assists, 12 sacks, 18 pass deflections, nine forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns).
“For me being the first to be recognized and have my number retired is great,” Freeman said. “It is always nice to come home. I always carry the name of University of Mary Hardin-Baylor wherever I go. I love this university and I always give back, especially with what they have given to me.”
“That was so cool, wasn’t it,” UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg said. “My heart was just racing. Then when they showed him running out, I just got chills. What an incredible young man. I just thought it was glorious.”
For Freeman, going to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in 2004 as a freshman has always been a career highlight.
“To be able to come back and graduate here was a huge honor and highlight as well,” Freeman said. “Today has been an emotional day and I appreciate the university for doing this for me.”
Freeman gave credit to his teammates that he played with at UMHB for making him a better player.
“I give my teammates credit that I played with,” Freeman said. “Together, they helped make me the player I am today.”