INDIANAPOLIS –As the media surrounded the locker of Jerrell Freeman on Sunday afternoon, the Colts' leading tackler could barely get a word in without being interrupted.
Each time Freeman began to answer a question there was Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea chiming in with a nickname for his teammate.
'Baby Ray. Baby Ray," Bethea said repeatedly in reference to Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
Freeman could not help but laugh at the nickname his teammates have given him, and it seemed fitting given another team-leading, 16-tackle performance on Sunday.
"He's a (heck) of a player," Bethea said. "We joke around with him calling him, 'Baby Ray,' but he's sideline-to-sideline making plays, picks, sacks, whatever. Jerrell has had a great year this year."
Play-after-play on Sunday, there was No. 50 appearing from the bottom of the pile, spear-heading a defensive effort that allowed just one touchdown in the Colts' 20-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills (4-7). The win put Indianapolis at 7-4.
After inside linebacker Pat Angerer went down in the preseason opener with a foot injury, Freeman emerged into a starting role and has thrived leading the team in tackles in all but one game this season.
"They gave him a chance, and he's seizing the moment," Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis said of Freeman. "He gets my nod for the Pro Bowl."
On the season, Freeman has 143 tackles and on Sunday, he was everywhere with three tackles for losses and a sack of Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
While his teammates enjoyed singing the praises of their signal-caller on defense, Freeman chose instead to thank them for creating his opportunities.
"I have a good team around me, a good D-line, that allows me to use my speed sideline-to- sideline," Freeman said. "My journey has been long, but I'm here now and willing to do whatever it takes to stay on that field."
This time last season, Freeman was at home having completed his third season in the Canadian Football League.
He would get another crack at his dream when the Colts called in mid-January, and he continues to deliver with double-digit tackle efforts week-in and week-out.
"You can't say enough about (Jerrell Freeman)," interim head coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "He is a quality, quality football player, and I'm sure glad he's on our team. He's fast and he can run with these guys."
Last season in Baltimore, Chuck Pagano coached Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowler who has been a mainstay in one of the NFL finest defenses.
Freeman finds himself in the middle of the Colts' hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme, just like Lewis did last season with the Ravens, and his teammates do not see the nickname leaving any time soon.
"I think it's going to stick. Baby Ray that's what it is," Mathis said. "We kind of have that under defense going (that Baltimore did), and he's playing that same position. He's showing what he can do."
The nickname is just a name to Freeman, who downplays being in the same sentence with Lewis, rather savoring a chance to play in the NFL.
From Mary-Hardin Baylor (a Division III school in Texas) to the CFL, Freeman is writing another chapter that has his team in position to experience the postseason.
"We control our own destiny. As long as we keep getting wins, we will be able to get those January checks," Freeman said.