TALLAHASSEE -- One of the few bright spots from Florida State’s ground game that finished 104th in the country in 2011 was Devonta Freeman.
Freeman, who turned heads after amassing more than 350 yards from scrimmage for Miami Central during a state title game, led the Seminoles in rushing as a freshman last season. He averaged 4.8 yards and rushed for 579 yards and eight touchdowns.
It looked easy, but the transition from high school to college was anything but smooth for Freeman.
“When I first came in as a freshman I was lost,” Freeman said. “I didn’t know a whole lot; I didn’t know how to deal with the whole college thing, period. But as it went on I learned how to deal with time management, my studies, school and the playbook at the same time.”
Freeman points to the tutelage of senior tailback Chris Thompson, who mentored Freeman last season while recovering from a broken back, as a major factor in his progress.
The two have formed an exceptionally strong bond.
“Chris Thompson was always around,” Freeman said. “Even though he didn’t play, he just always kind of mentored me. Any questions I asked, he was always there for me, even if I get chewed out by the coaches some, he would be like, ‘Keep your head up and move on.’”
As Freeman got his reps in, Thompson stood behind the line each day at practice taking mental reps and helping to keep Freeman’s spirits up.
“He was just teaching me to move on to the next play and stuff because sometimes I get chewed out by the coach or whatever and then I go into my shell,” Freeman said. “But Chris Thompson was always there to talk to me and just be there for me.”
That support was vital during the offseason when Freeman was injured and held out of spring practice.
“When you come to a college and you get injured you feel like the coaches forgot about you,” Freeman said.
Thompson didn’t. Still rehabbing his own injury, the senior running back stood beside Freeman on the sideline each day, keeping him positive and offering the young back support in every way he could.
“The person that I talked to the most was Chris Thompson,” Freeman said. “[We] have kind of been through the same thing off the field, too. And also on the field, but with his family problems and my family problems, we go through the same things, so he’s the one I’m closest to.”
With both backs healthy this season, FSU hopes to have a potent rushing attack again. And the two talented runners hope to spend more time together in the backfield than standing on the sidelines.
Regardless of where they’re standing, however, the two have formed a bond for life.
“I can talk to him [about] anything,” Freeman said. “Our relationship right now is phenomenal. He’s like someone I know I’ll talk to after college, and he always will be my friend.”