INDIANAPOLIS – A little more than two years ago, Jerrell Freeman stood on the grounds of Anderson University as a virtual unknown.
Was this former Canadian Football Leaguer going to be the guy to fill-in for Pat Angerer while the then Colts leading tackler missed the first month and a half of the 2012 season?
As Freeman began to pace the Colts game-after game, the questions turned from is Freeman the right to guy, to where were you going to play him when Angerer returned?
Flash forward to 2014 and Freeman is on a remarkable ascension.
"To me, he's in a perfect progression," Colts linebackers coach Jeff Fitzgerald says of Freeman.
"Last year what he did, brought a little bit of attention to himself in an individual standpoint, but made a lot of big plays for our defense. Do I think he can be beyond that? No, I don't think he can. I know he can. He's just been progressing as he's gone on. Has he reached the ceiling yet? No way. No way. So if we can just keep him on track and then keep him going the way he's done the last couple of years, he'll progress. He'll be where we want him to be or at least get him closer to that ceiling anyway."
Freeman has been at the epicenter of the Colts defense for every game the last two seasons.
The tackle numbers speak for itself but Freeman made a quantum leap last year in becoming a true difference maker from his inside linebacker spot.
He's become a nuisance for opposing offenses with his blitzing ability and has found himself in the middle of several key turnovers.
In 2014, Freeman will line up next to a seasoned veteran in D'Qwell Jackson.
From afar, Jackson had been fond of what he's seen from Freeman.
"I had read about (Freeman), I had heard about him. I'm a fan, as well as I'm a player, so before I joined the Colts here, I knew exactly who he was," Jackson says.
"To be around him, to see how smart he is and how physically gifted he is, he truly can take his game to the next level. The sky's the limit with him."
This offseason Freeman has seen his name thrown around lists of the game's top linebackers.
That Division III mindset of always working to keep a spot hasn't left Freeman though and like any great linebacker, this one knows who to thank.
"I'm pretty free out there. I'm able to float to the ball, make a lot of tackles out here and it's good to have those guys holding double teams," Freeman says of the Colts defensive line.
"It's a lot of guys that understand, a lot of selfless guys that do what they do and I'm loving that. I try to reward them and give them a pat on the back every chance I get."
If 2014 is anything like the last two years, Freeman will be handing out a plethora of pats this fall.