Freeman's Dream Wins Out

During the fall, Tom Freeman took a visit to Northwestern to check out the school and the football program. When he returned home, the 6-foot-4, 280-pound standout center from Rockhurst High in Kansas City, Mo., knew exactly what place was the right fit for him.

Notre Dame.

Unfortunately for Tom Freeman, the Irish coaching staff had taken two centers in the recruiting class before, including Notre Dame legacy Michael Golic Jr., leaving no room for another son of a former football player.

Back in the fall, former Notre Dame offensive line coach John Latina called Freeman and explained that the staff is trying to focus on bringing in tackles, but that they'd love to have him be part of the program as a preferred walk-on.

Good enough.

Since then, the Freeman family has been working with Irish assistant coach Rob Ianello, and regardless of a scholarship offer or not, Freeman's heart was at Notre Dame.

Signing day came and passed, and Freeman didn't sign with Northwestern, South Florida, Duke, Ball State, Army, Navy, Air Force or any of the Ivy League programs that offered him a scholarship. He was finalizing plans to take the Irish staff up on being a preferred walk-on.

"A lot went into that," Freeman Sr. said. He played offensive line at Notre Dame from 1983-87. "His mom and I both went to Notre Dame. It's always been a dream of his to play at Notre Dame. He considers it a great privilege to play for Our Lady's University, and help them get back to the National Championship. It's going to be a sacrifice, but he's guaranteed me he's going to work as hard as he can to earn a scholarship.

"There is no doubt in my mind he can do it. He's going in weighing a solid 280. I think he's fast enough and strong enough. Much better than I ever was. He's smart. He understands the game. Plays with a lot of passion. Takes a tremendous amount of pride in being the best that he can be."

Freeman never led on any of the other schools recruiting him, telling them Notre Dame is where he always wanted to be.

"In the fall, we visited Northwestern on an unofficial visit, and when we came back, Tom said I can't see myself anywhere other than Notre Dame," his father explained. "He grew up in a Notre Dame family with Notre Dame tradition around him. It's what he's always dreamed of doing, and I think that's going to be a big help to him. He understands what it means to be a Notre Dame football player and the tradition that goes into it. He's not going up there for a free education. He's going back there to try and help them get back to where they were for many, many years.

"Nobody is going to outwork him or out hustle him. I just feel confident he has all the tools to do it.

"Like Lou Holtz always said, it's a 40-year decision, not a four year decision."

Freeman played his final two seasons as a starter at left guard for Holtz, helping the program turn the corner and become National Title contenders. Now he is a financial advisor for UBS.

"Coach Holtz came in there and instilled a new level of confidence and pride," Freeman Sr. said. "There had always been great talent on the team, he just got everyone to play to the best of their abilities."

That's what his son plans to do at Notre Dame, and will be on campus soon to meet with new offensive line coach Frank Verducci.

"We're thankful for the offers from the other schools. They're great programs, but Notre Dame is where he always wanted to be."


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