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Jerrell Freeman continuing to prove Ryan Grigson right

Posted Oct 30, 2013

Intro: When Jerrell Freeman became Ryan Grigson’s first signing in January of 2012, the news wasn’t donning many front pages. Yet, after 23 straight starts at inside linebacker, Freeman has become one of the critical parts of the Colts 3-4 hybrid defense.



INDIANAPOLIS— Ryan Grigson’s tenure as the Colts general manager was barely a week old when he made his first acquisition.

The name certainly didn’t send shockwaves across Colts nation.

A player by the name of Jerrell Freeman, who had spent the previous three seasons in the Canadian Football League, was Grigson’s first free agent signee.

Now, 205 tackles and 23 straight starts later and it’s the former CFL star that has quietly become and elite NFL linebacker.

“He’s been playing great, all over the field, sideline-to-sideline making tackles,” safety Antoine Bethea says of Freeman. “His story’s special. Everyone has a different road to get to where they want to get to and he took his road and he’s playing well.”

Freeman’s position coach Jeff FitzGerald saw something early in the 2012 OTAs that intrigued him about the linebacker from north of the border.

The jump to one of the leading tacklers in the NFL hasn’t surprised FitzGerald due to what he was witnessing in Freeman.

“He was continually progressing in all the things that we were teaching him. It was a slow process, but a steady process, so it gave me a lot of optimism,” FitzGerald said of Freeman.

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.”

 

On opening day in 2012, Freeman became the first undrafted player to return an interception for a touchdown in his NFL debut since 1987.

When the 2012 season concluded Freeman had piled up 203 tackles and had gone from a virtual unknown prior to training camp to a 16-game starter.

As the Colts enter their second season in the 3-4 hybrid defensive scheme, Freeman is handling more and more responsibility.

(Freeman) doesn’t balk at it whatsoever,” FitzGerald says of the added information.

“I think he enjoys having the extra responsibility that we put on him and he does a good job with it. I think he looks at it as a challenge. He’s hard on himself. He’s great to coach. We’re hard on him, but he’s probably ultimately the hardest guy on himself to get better.”

At each level of the Colts defense, there is a player that has followed a similar path to the NFL to that of Freeman.

From a Division III product to the CFL, Freeman’s path to the middle of the Colts defense is something that the longest tenured defender certainly respects.

“He’s a small school guy like myself so I can always appreciate that,” Robert Mathis said of Freeman.

“He came in, did the right things and he’s just reaping the benefits.”

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