“The reason for me going was to see what a day in the life was like,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”
Freeman also has been training with his brother Michael, a linebacker at Mercer going into his senior season.
“We’re just making the best out of the things that we have,” Freeman said.
He has not abandoned the hope of playing in the NFL. Coming out of Tech, Freeman went to training camp with the New Orleans Saints in 2018, but did not make the team. He played in the Alliance of American Football in 2019, but the league did not make it through its first season, like the XFL.
With the XFL’s DC Defenders, Freeman was a starter, playing at defensive end, outside linebacker and middle linebacker. He also was an integral member on special teams.
“Hopefully, that was enough to kind of alert some of these teams that, ‘Hey, we can use this guy,’” Freeman said.
Freeman appreciated the XFL’s tweaks. TV cameras were everywhere during games, he said, and a handful of players wore microphones during games. In-game interviews also were part of broadcasts. Before one game, he said, he was followed around by a camera crew.
Among on-field changes, after touchdowns, there were no point-after tries. Teams could score one point on a scrimmage play starting at the 2-yard line, two points from the 5 and three points from the 10. On kickoffs, the coverage team lined up on the opponent’s 35-yard line and the return team lined up on its 30, and the kickoff had to land between the goal line and 20. The coverage team (besides the kicker) could not move until the returner fielded the ball. The change was made to simultaneously reduce touchbacks while limiting injuries caused by collisions created by players sprinting downfield at top speed.
“It was just stuff like that that made it pretty interesting,” he said.
Also novel: Players were paid $1,685 for each game that they were active and another $2,222 for each win. That was on top of a weekly salary of $1,040. There were supposed to be 10 games in the regular season.
“Everyone was eager to win that extra bonus,” Freeman said, “because everyone wanted that extra money. Everyone was playing for that bonus every week.”
Freeman also brought foster children to one game, to a practice and to the team hotel, and he dedicated another game to children with progeria, a genetic disorder that causes rapid aging.
They are all experiences and memories in the past. He now finds himself in a flux similar to many his age (24).
“I feel good about the fact that I got the opportunity to play again and get some more film because some guys don’t get the opportunity,” Freeman said. “I’m encouraged. I’m staying positive and looking for whatever else may come.”
Freeman said that he has had invitations previously to work in college athletics. He has his business administration degree from Tech. While he has put aside his former plans to go to medical school, he has considered a job in health-care administration. He also has a goal of one day having his own foundation that supports foster children and families with hospitalized children.
Whether another opportunity in football happens, “I’m going to be good either way,” he said.
Freeman said he recently spoke with a friend in the music industry about his experiences with the same type of setbacks.
“Things happen,” Freeman said. “It doesn’t matter how it happens, what matters is how you bounce back.”