The fact that Jerrell Freeman finds himself in the top five tacklers in the league this season is astonishing considering his path to the NFL compared to others.
Of the players that rank first through fourth in tackles (Freeman is fifth with 101), each was selected in the top 35 picks of their respective draft class (Jerod Mayo 10th overall, Chad Greenway 17th, James Laurinaitis 35th and Luke Kuechly 9th).
And then there’s Freeman, who went undrafted after 252 picks in 2008, 37 of which were linebackers.
A brief stint in Tennessee didn’t pan out, and after three seasons in the Canadian Football League, Freeman has now become an instant leader for a Colts defense that needed someone to step up when 2011 leading tackler Pat Angerer suffered a foot injury in preseason.
“The kid’s come out of nowhere and become the core of our defense,” Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians said of Freeman. “Fourteen, 15, 16 tackles a week. Sideline-to-sideline, his speed and the plays that he makes, I don’t know where we’d be without him.
While being in charge of the calls for the Colts new hybrid 3-4 defense, Freeman has racked up double-digit tackle games in five games this season.
When Angerer went down in the preseason opener, many wondered where the Colts defense would turn for at least the early part of the regular season.
Freeman has been the guy to solve all those questions and much more.
“I expected to come in and do everything I needed to do to make the team,” Freeman said to ‘Voice of the Colts’ Bob Lamey on Monday’s ‘Pagano Show.’
“Luckily for me, I made the team and I guess I’ve been put into a position to make those plays.”
Following his 16-tackle performance against the Bills last weekend the nickname of ‘Baby Ray’, in reference to Ravens All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis, was heard all around the Colts locker room.
Freeman is one of a plethora of new faces that have been asked to take on expanded roles this season and the easy going nature of the Colts locker room has helped ease the transition for him.
“It’s just family all the way around whether you’re the top guy, top dog here or the low man on the totem pole,” Freeman said. “Everybody gets treated the same, like brothers, like a family.”
On the field, Freeman considers himself a ‘sideline-to-sideline’ type player and is excelling in a system that he wasn’t familiar with before arriving in Indianapolis earlier this year.
From a hidden gem to among the league’s top defenders, Freeman has gone from ‘just trying to make the roster’ to an integral part of a potential playoff team.
“We’re really happy we have (Freeman) on our football team because he’s turned into a whale of a football player and really our defensive leader. He’s gotten game balls. He’s been a captain,” Arians said.
“It’s a great honor for a young player like to him to jump into this group of veteran group of guys on defense and then call him ‘Baby Ray.’”
Tags: bruce arians, Jerrell Freeman, pat angerer
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