After having to live through a nightmare last season, Paris junior tight end Grant Freeman got to live out a dream on Thursday morning.
That's when Freeman (6-7, 250, 4.8) - just a day after the 2006 class was put to bed - became the University of Arkansas' first commitment of the 2007 one at a 10 a.m. assembly at his school.
"I've wanted to be a Razorback since the fourth grade so after I got the offer there was no real reason to wait," Freeman said. "I'm very excited about it and I think we have got a lot of great players and a great coaching staff up there and we are on our way to winning an SEC championship."
He did so just a few months after his home burned down, something that rallied the people of Paris around him and his mom according to Eagles head John Vitale.
"He is just so tickled to death and we are too for him," Vitale said. "Their house burned down during the middle of football season and he's had kind of hard row. People in town rallied around them and bought them clothes and helped find them another place to live. Everything's been kind of tough, but now how nice is this for him - that he is going to get to play for the Razorbacks."
Freeman was overwhelmed by the people of Paris after the tragedy of the house burning down.
"I think every church in town raised money for us and got us clothes," Freeman said. "Paris has great people."
The offer came after new Razorback offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn made the trip to Paris to check out Freeman, who had been receiving interest from Oklahoma State, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt already in addition to Arkansas.
"Coach Malzahn came down last week and watched him workout, spent about an hour watching us lift weights and do our agilities. He was impressed and called Coach Nutt and he said go ahead and offer him and let's get him. He told me to tell him - since coaches can't communicate with them yet - that there would be an offer for him."
Needless to say that excited Freeman, who was very noticeable to scouts at the National Junior Combine in San Antonio, an event which was held in conjunction with the U.S. Army All American Game.
"He has always wanted to play for the Razorbacks since he has been little bitty," Vitale said. "He was getting letters from Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, but he wants to go to Arkansas. We're so happy he's getting the chance."
Freeman caught 12 passes for 210 yards and 4 touchdowns and 2 2-point conversions in the run-heavy Wing-T offense of Paris this season, who rebounded from a 3-7 season his sophomore year to an 8-3 one in which the Eagles reached the playoffs in 2005.
"I've been coaching 29 years and he is the best I have seen at the tight end position as far as blocking and running his routes," Vitale said. "Of course, we are a Wing-T, double-tight team here so everything that we throw is play action so we are not in the spread, but he does a good job.
"He was a big key this year in us getting the Paris football team turned around," Vitale added. " Everything we threw to him this year he caught. He has good hands and is a great blocker. He just knocks those defensive ends down and maintains his blocks."
Freeman - who also had over 50 tackles and 4 sacks from his defensive end spot - feels good about his development, but knows there are things he needs to continue to work hard on.
"I think the main things I need to work on are my foot speed and running better routes," Freeman said. "I think I am pretty strong and a good blocker, but I know I can improve in all areas."
Freeman certainly showed his toughness this past year, both with the fire and an aching back.
"He had a back problem with a slipped disc and had surgery in the middle of June," Vitale said. "We didn't think we'd have him back until the fourth or fifth ballgame, but he was ready to go for game one. He's a tough kid."
He played at 235 last season, but has put on some muscle since the season ended.
"He has done nothing but gotten bigger and stronger, he's 40 time has gone down," Vitale said. "You are talking 6-7, 250 and his work ethic is just amazing. He is just dedicated and is going to be a good athlete for Arkansas."
With size 19 shoes, it would appear that he will just be getting bigger.
"Coach Malzahn says he looks like he is going to get over 300 because he has the body frame to do that," Vitale said. "He has some growing to do yet - maybe not so much in height, but he will get thicker and bigger. He has already done that just since football season has been over with. He has added 10-15 pounds already."
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