During the bye week, LibertyFlames.com will be providing a series of interviews with Liberty's coaches and a few feature stories about some of its key players. Today's feature story is about Cory Freeman, one of Liberty's starting defensive linemen.
The story below ran in Liberty's Flames Illustrated game day program for the Flames home game against No. 16/13 Lehigh. On the season, Freeman has recorded 12 tackles (four solo, eight assisted), plus two tackles for a loss and one of Liberty's five sacks.
Flames Focus on Cory Freeman
When talking about his parents and their influence in his life, 6-5, 270-pound Cory Freeman broke into a fittingly enormous grin.
"Well, my Dad's a stud of a man, I'm not going to lie to you," the defensive lineman began, nodding for emphasis. "He played football himself back at home at Fayetteville State. Back then he was 6-0, 180 pounds, but he had the nickname Cheetah. He was extremely fast and could hit hard."
With a deep laugh, Freeman continued, "He always tells me this story..."
And just like that, he launched into a tale of father Anthony Freeman's glory days on the field, complete with exaggerated gestures and voices for different coaches and teammates.
"...smacked some guy on the opposing team and he was actually going to the wrong sideline because he was, all dizzy and what not. And everyone starts yelling, ‘Hey, hey Freeman, it's over here, man!'" Freeman exclaimed, clapping his hands and chuckling at the punch line.
"I did enjoy playing football," confirmed Anthony Freeman. "I enjoyed it a lot. I also enjoy watching football, and especially watching Cory play."
The obvious mutual respect extends to Freeman's relationship with his mother Margaret Freeman, too.
"See to me, she is such a sweetheart. She's always been one of my biggest fans," said Freeman of his mother. "She was always there at all my high school football and basketball games, really not even knowing what in the world was going on, yet faithful and smiling. I would always look up and see her, and she would be there winking or smiling at me or something."
"Well, I was very proud of him. I see now and I saw then how determined he was about what he was trying to accomplish, responded Margaret Freeman. "Whenever I went to his games, I knew he was always going to do his best, so it just felt good knowing that he takes inner talent seriously."
"I always thought learning team sports would be a good thing to help develop good character traits," Anthony agreed. "And you know, he was brought up in the church, he used to be a Boy Scout, and we just tried our best to instill good values in him. He still answers us ‘yes sir' and ‘yes ma'am' and he's a good people person all around."
"I just have a passion for seeing people smile," Freeman summed up simply.
While virtue might have been the ultimate end goal in Freeman's early athletic life, His parents realized before long that they had a pretty good football player on their hands to boot.
"I supported him in the sports he played and covered them, and we'd go to games. He seemed to be good at what he did in basketball and football; and I played sports, so I encouraged it," Freeman's father stated.
The Flames have a lot to thank Anthony Freeman for, then.
Now a redshirt junior at Liberty, Freeman is a powerful and near constant disruption on the pass rush. Coming off an impressive 2011 season, including a standout game versus Big South Conference rival Coastal Carolina where he recorded five solo tackles, his first career sack and a forced fumble. The Liberty coaching staff predicts that Freeman will solidify his defensive linchpin status during in the 2012 season.
"Cory's extremely physical. That's one of his God-given talents," commented co-defensive coordinator Vantz Singletary. "He's so strong that he has the nickname ‘Freak' because he does freaky things with the weights in the weight room, and transfers that work in the weight room to the playing field. He's a relentless type of person."
Freeman attributes his commitment to training, so apparent on the field, in large part to coach and mentor Bill Gillespie, Liberty's head strength and conditioning coordinator.
"When I first got here, the main thing that drew me besides the environment of Christ-loving people was Coach Gillespie and the prominence of us getting stronger, faster and bigger. The Lord has blessed me with some genes to be strong and fast, and for Coach Gillespie to be able to enhance that in us helps out a lot," said Freeman.
"Everybody looks up to Cory. He's one of those guys you dream of getting to coach," Gillespie responded emphatically. "He's an absolutely fine young man and his work ethic is unbelievable. His passion to become great and honor God with those talents is absolutely what you dream of in an athlete. I just admire the young man so much."
In fact, Gillespie is not the only coach to notice evidence of Anthony and Margaret Freeman's early investment in their son's character. Sure, he's big physically. But Freeman's heart matches, if not exceeds, his mountainous stature.
"You know, I was telling our head coach during the spring that I thought Cory would be an ideal pastor someday," Singletary remarked, a not unlikely conjecture considering Freeman is a Biblical studies major and interested in pastoral or Bible-based counseling.
"He's very cordial, very polite; a different guy off the field. He's very friendly and very likable, you know? He's not a loud guy, but instead a very conscientious kid, very personable. He'll give you the shirt off his back," Singletary continued. A brief pause, and the defensive line coach added with a firm nod, "A good man. Just a good young man."
It's safe to say that, the encouragement his parents provided throughout Freeman's life paid off in a huge way.
As they make four-hour road trips to Williams Stadium from their North Carolina home and keep up with the team from a distance ("I follow the games on the radio, I read the website, the different articles on the website - I'm an avid Liberty fan now!" declared Anthony), Freeman's parents can be sure that Flames fans will be cheering him on for his big impact both on and off the field. ------ Ryley Rush is a Liberty University freshman and is a freelance writer for Liberty Athletics
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