INDIANAPOLIS - A quick glance at the name would make someone think the institution in question is another.
Next to Jerrell Freeman's name is "Mary Hardin-Baylor"-indicating the school which he played his college football.
But its not just a long name for the well known Big XII university, one that produced 2011 Heisman Trophy Winner Robert Griffin III. Indeed Mary Hardin-Baylor is its own school in Belton, Texas and has about 2,800 students.
Its a Christian school located in the central part of the state whose football reputation is still a work in progress.
"It was an all girls school actually back in the day," said Freeman when talking about the history of his alma mater, but it became a full co-educational school in 1971.
He was in high school when the Crusaders sports programs joined the NCAA in 1999 and a freshman when the football program made it to the Division III national championship. Now as a member of the Colts, he might be able to add some more to Mary Hardin Baylor's growing profile.
As the final pre-season game against the Bengalsapproaches, Freeman figures to be a candidate to fill in for Pat Angerer at middle linebacker. The starter broke his foot against the Ramsin the first pre-season game and Freeman has seen increased reps at middle linebacker the past few weeks.
"You feel like a starter all the time even if your second or third string, Especially in camp, you have to know everything that you're doing," said Freeman of preparing to fill in for Angerer. "Put on good film and try to get out here and do your part.
"It's pretty cliche to say."
His story and where how he got to that point are not.
The Texas native proved to be one of Mary Hardin-Baylor's greatest players to date, setting the program record for tackles by making 112 in his senior season. His 18.5 tackles for loss and six sacks helped to earn him D3football.com's 2007 Defensive player of the year honor.
But without an invite to the combine and no scouts making their way to Benton, Freeman had to find another way to workout for the scouts.
"I went to Mary Hardin Baylor, which is the sister school of Baylor," said Freeman. "They let me got to Baylor's pro day and they let me show my skills."
He did enough to earn a free agent contract with the Tennessee Titansbut he failed to make it out of training camp. He went from there to the Canadian Football League's Saskatchewan Roughriders.
In three seasons he worked his way up from special teams to starting linebacker and in 2011 lead the league in tackles with 105. The performance earned him a futures contract with the Colts back in January and a second shot at the NFL.
"You have to have a non-quitting type of mentality," said Freeman of how kept working towards a return to the NFL. "My mom and dad instilled in me a workmanship. Put on your hard hat, your lunch pail and get to work type of mentality.
"That's how I've been doing that my whole life."
It's paid off for him since the injury to Angerer as the linebackers made 13 tackles while playing mostly in the middle. Freeman started against the Redskins in the third pre-season game and made a team-high six tackles.
"He's filled in nicely, not only in first and second down stuff, but in our sub packages in third down," said head coach Chuck Pagano of Freeman. "So he’s done a nice job."
The reason why? Freeman kept it kinda cliche.
"It wasn't anything special. Just play the game, play the game of football to the best of my ability," said Freeman. "I was able to do that. Got to Tennessee got cut from there, went to Canada for a few years and now I'm here."
In a least cliche way from a place he'll try to make a little more know.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times