Until Notre Dame signed D.J. Hord to the 2005 recruiting class; they hadn't had a football recruit from the state of Missouri since offensive lineman John Teasdale signed with the Irish in 1997. This year it looks like the Irish staff will once again turn their attention to the "Show Me" state as they'll try to lure defensive back Phillip Strozier (Rockhurst) and top rated quarterback Josh Freeman to South Bend.
Josh Freeman has all the tools college recruiters look for in a quarterback prospect. He has the stats; 2,400 yards and 26 touchdowns with a 67 percent completion rate and only six interceptions. He has the height; he has a dynamite arm, and he has very good mobility for a player his size.
But those things only take you so far and it's the intangibles that separate the difference makers from the average players. During our short conversation I got the impression that Freeman had the intangibles as well.
Freeman was born into a football family. His dad Ron played linebacker for eight seasons with the Orlando Renegades of the USFL. After the USFL, Ron went on to play for the Buffalo Bills for a year, and ended his career in Kansas City.
"My dad retired before I was born so I didn't get a chance to see him play," said Freeman "I used to always want to watch film with him when I was younger, but we don't watch it much anymore. What my dad did do was teach me defenses, coverages, and what defenses try to do to slow down the offense. I think that helped me a lot and allowed me to jump in and start right away."
One has to figure that the son of a former professional football player would be introduced to football at a fairly early age, but the question has to be, how does the son of a linebacker end up playing quarterback?
"Yeah, I did start playing football when I was little. I've always loved football. I played running back up until the eighth grade," Freeman explained. "There was a barbeque after a practice and everyone was just hanging around, throwing the football. Well, our quarterback was Carson Coffman (Raymore-Peculiar). He and his brother started messing around and Carson ended up breaking his hand. So from that point forward, I've been at quarterback. It actually worked out well considering how much I grew. It would be pretty tough to be a 6-6 running back."
Freeman attended last year's Iowa City Nike camp, where he threw with recently signed Irish quarterback Evan Sharpley. Freeman also participated in the U.S. Army junior combine this past January. With that much exposure, nearly every school in the country is recruiting Freeman.
"I'm getting mail from everyone," said Freeman. "I have offers from Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa. Nebraska probably leads. I know more about them right now because I went to their camp last summer. So if I had to pick a school right now, I'd pick be Nebraska, but I don't have to pick a school now so everyone is in. I'm just learning about some of the schools and gathering information.
"If I made a decision based solely on the head coach, I'd probably pick Kansas or Missouri. Both coach Mangino (Kansas) and coach Pinkel (Missouri) are really good guys. I get along with them really well, and I think they're great coaches."
Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska appear to be his top schools so I asked him if he had a top 5 and if he was considering Notre Dame.
"Oh, I like Notre Dame a lot," Freeman said. "They're definitely in the mix. I probably have Nebraska in front and the rest tied for second. I'd say the schools tied for second are Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. I've thought about going to one of their junior days. I 'm also thinking about taking a swing up to Michigan, Michigan St, and Notre Dame for a one-day camp this summer. I'm also considering going to camps at Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa."
The Missouri native says he's talked to all of the coaching staffs except Michigan and Notre Dame but expects to speak with those schools sometime in the near future.
I had read that Freeman was interested in enrolling early, so I asked him how he came to the decision and what was the reasoning behind it.
"My dad and I talked about it," he confirmed. "It really makes sense in terms of the big picture. As a player you want to be able to play as soon as possible. If you can get to school for spring practice, get comfortable with the offense and the way things are run, it'll help down the line. I've already confirmed that my classes and grades are fine so, I'm all set."
Comments: Freeman definitely favors Nebraska right now, but they certainly aren't a lock. Freeman is a pretty intelligent guy; he's a very confident, well-spoken individual. He's taking his time and gathering as much information so he can make a good decision. Notre Dame is definitely in the mix. For Notre Dame to stay in the game, Freeman will need to make it to a junior day or football camp.