Rod Freeman comes full circle

Rod Freeman, Vanderbilt class of '73, was a standout 6-8 forward in basketball under Coach Roy Skinner. Last week Freeman sent his son Richard, a 6-5, 240-pound defensive lineman from Brentwood High School, off to college to play football for Bobby Johnson's Commodores.

VandyMania: Tell us what you do for a living today.

Rod Freeman: For the last 17 years I've run a company called Fitness Systems. We sell fitness equipment. I'm transitioning out of that responsibility now, and looking for other things to do. I'm enjoying life, actually. It's been very good to me.

VM: So now all of a sudden you've got a son who's a scholarship player on the football team. Does that sort of feel like you've come full circle?

RF: It does. On the way down here today I was telling my wife how much fun it is to come down West End and turn in here. Things have changed, but then again things haven't changed. We're looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to following him and following the team, and enjoying Vanderbilt all over again.

VM: Tell me a little about Richard's recruiting. I know he was interested in Vanderbilt with the previous staff... then all of a sudden there was a coaching change.

RF: [Richard] was looked at early on by Vanderbilt. In fact Vanderbilt was one of the first teams to offer him a scholarship, and that was back in the spring of his junior year, so to be honest we didn't know what to make of that. We just tried to take it in stride. As he worked through his senior year at Brentwood High School, he got a lot of interest from a lot of schools. We didn't know where he was going until the last minute. We left it totally up to him. As much as I like Vanderbilt and would love to have my children go here, well, I have a daughter that went to Florida, and we've got a son who went to Auburn. So it wasn't automatic. I never put pressure on them to go one place or another. What I'm thankful for is that he's got an opportunity for a great education, and he gets to play football to boot. He enjoys both of those.

VM: What comments has he had about practices so far?

RF: Interestingly enough, this is the first time we've talked to him since the beginning of practice. Even though it's close by, we want to give him as much space as we can, and treat it as though he was 1,000 miles away. I know it's a lot of hard work, but I think he's enjoying it. He doesn't mind hard work. He's been lifting and working out, coming down here during the summer, and has gotten to know all the guys. He's just enjoying the camaraderie that you get when you're on an athletic team. I think the discipline that you've been reading about in the paper with this new staff-- he sees it every day. It will only manifest itself in good things.

VM: I have to ask you, do you ever still play any basketball?

RF: (Laugh) Only if the kids ask me to go out back and play, yeah! We've got a hoop in the driveway.

VM: Are there any players from your era that are special to you, that you keep in touch with?

RF: Something we do that's a lot of fun-- Jerry Southwood, who played in the late 1960's and started the Rebounders organization, and a bunch of Coach Skinner's other former players get together with Coach once a month at a restaurant down at Melrose. That's very enjoyable. We just sit there and tell lies and stories about ourselves, and have a great time.

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