To talk to Marcus Freeman, what you come away with is this impression of what a level-headed and person of seemingly unflappable demeanor he seems to be. You might say that's just the way he is.
Marcus is a linebacker though and as much as he might insist how matter-of-fact he is out there on the field in how he approaches the game, he's not without his own "weakness" to emotion when it comes to certain aspects of the contest. Like, say when he sees a ball-carrier that doesn't see him. "You get this feeling that just goes through you." Marcus said. "You don't want to hurt the guy, but you want to go through him as hard as you can."
Typical to his demeanor though, Marcus would rather the ball-carriers continue to not see him coming. "I like to sneak up on them." he said. "I'm not a big talker, so I just try to get them when they aren't looking."
Marcus might not be a big talker, but he's a big tackler to be sure. After posting 152 tackles last year, one marvels at what he could do this year, even as a marked man. Marcus isn't shying away from what he knows will be increased attention from offenses, because he's going to get it on the defensive side as well as this season, he's playing running back as well.
It's not uncommon at all for great athletes to be utilized on both sides of the ball, so Freeman isn't breaking new ground, but his goals for both sides just might. "I want to get 2 and 1." Marcus stated indicating his goal of running for 1,000 yards and getting 200 tackles on the season.
Though I am sure this feat has probably been duplicated a few times in high school history, I have to be honest in saying I can't recall exactly when it happened. It's just not a "normal" accomplishment.
What is "normal" about how Marcus approaches either side of the ball is his approach. Simplistic in nature, seemingly easy to duplicate, but the results, that's what makes the difference. Marcus just starts with what he considers the basics. "I give 110% all the time." Marcus said. "I try to use my instincts with maximum effort and I don't worry too much about mistakes."
"No player is perfect and you are going to make mistakes, but if you give everything you got, good things are going to happen, so that's what I do."
There's something Marcus also does that has managed to set himself apart from much of the defensive community and that is, nothing. Nothing not to indicate performance, but the lack of one after any player, no matter how significant. In a world of "look at me" athletes and patented dances after almost meaningless plays, it's those players I call "old school"-types that really stand out.
You have to ask yourself though, how does a player manage to avoid all that in a world that seemingly promotes it year to year. "A lot of linebackers are real crazy dudes." Marcus said. "I'm just not that type of player, because I have business to take care of out there and then I walk off the field."
"I have been brought up that you don't talk too much. Don't go around bragging, talking or saying how good you are. If you are good, people will notice, so you just let your actions speak for you."
Marcus' maturity also defines what players he follows at certain levels, one player in particular at the elite level that could also be characterized as a silent assassin himself. "I would love to be a player like Urlacher." Marcus said of the current Chicago Bear. "He's awesome and kind of a quiet guy, but I'm not even close to that right now."
If you haven't gotten the handle on Marcus just yet, let me define it for you as plainly as I can. He's absolutely "real". This young man has goals just like anyone else. He has ability, probably a lot more than most at his level of play and he's energetic and loves to hit just like any good defensive player is and does. Between his upbringing though and his personality, you aren't going to find many as even-keel in their mentality than him.
Marcus doesn't demand from you the necessity to tear away the bravado to find the real player or the person, because he's done that himself and what you see is what you get. Just the way he likes it. "Sometimes you start thinking you are special or something like that, but I have so many good people around me, I don't get like that." Marcus said. "I never thought I would be where I am right now, so I count my blessings everyday that I have this opportunity."
The opportunity Marcus speaks of is to literally have the freedom to close his eyes, throw a dart at a map of all the major universities out there and whichever one it hits, chances are, they have offered him. All those schools, all that attention, even the level-headed Freeman has had to find ways to take it all in stride. "The biggest thing for me is trying to narrow it down." he said. "If I can narrow it down, I can tell coaches from other schools that ‘this is my list' and if they want to keep calling, that's their choice, but these are my top five right now."
Freeman hasn't quite hit that top-five mark just yet, but he's close, managing a narrowed list of seven, but oh, what a seven schools indeed. "My top seven is Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Florida, Miami (Florida), Oklahoma and Nebraska, in no particular order."
The process for Marcus is going to be a long one though, even after he narrows his list, because his decision (when he makes it) will be the right one for him. "I know this is going to be a long process." he said. "All the calls, I know it's going to be a long one, but I'm ready for it."
There are a couple of significant criteria for Freeman when considering his future school that are certainly relevant. Criteria that just reinforces the personality you've briefly gotten to know. "Players get injured all the time in football." Marcus said "If I get hurt or I'm not good enough to be in the NFL, when I graduate, it means something and I am going to be able to get a good job and support a family of mine."
"Another thing is, I want to go somewhere my parents won't have to pay $300.00 to see me play every game. USC has offered me, but my parents can't fly out there every game to see me play, so I want to go someplace my parents can see me play."
With all that in mind, you can assume that the bulk of the midwestern schools that have offered Freeman stand the best chance to get him right now, but that's probably as narrow as you can get the list right now. Marcus isn't budging on narrowing it any further.
And Marcus doesn't plan on making a decision any time soon either as he may be dreading the process a little, but will be playing it out, again, making sure the place he goes is the right one for him and of course, his parents as well.
Keep on eye on Freeman. Everyone else is and so will we as he heads into the end of his high school career and looks at beginning another one someplace else.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619