Florida International U

An odd injury led this transfer to the FIU Panthers. Now he’s a rising linebacker

FIU linebacker Edwin Freeman (5) waits for the snap in the first quarter as the FIU Golden Panthers defeated the University of Massachusetts Minutemen 63-24 on Sept. 15, 2018, at Riccardo Silva Stadium in Miami.
FIU linebacker Edwin Freeman (5) waits for the snap in the first quarter as the FIU Golden Panthers defeated the University of Massachusetts Minutemen 63-24 on Sept. 15, 2018, at Riccardo Silva Stadium in Miami. FIU

Ever since Edwin Freeman took a fall, his career has been on the rise.

Freeman, a graduate transfer from the Texas Longhorns who is now a starting outside linebacker for FIU, was home in Arlington, Texas, this past January when his football career suddenly changed directions.

It began as an ordeal because of an accident that led to surgery on his left triceps.

“I actually fell off a fence,” Freeman said. “I was trying to get into my aunt’s apartment, and the [fence] was locked, so I tried to jump it.”

There was physical pain, obviously, but Freeman hurt in another way, too.

“This was supposed to be my year to go through spring ball and show [Longhorns] coaches what I could produce,” Freeman said.

After surgery, Freeman, who played in 29 games and started five during his Longhorns career, decided to transfer. He had already earned his Bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and health, so he did not have to sit out a year as a transfer student.

And, as it turned out, linebacker was perhaps FIU’s weakest position entering this season, especially when it came to established depth.

Brent Guy, who is FIU’s defensive coordinator and linebacker coach, found out about Freeman from one of his coaching associates, Kenny Perry, who is now the recruiting and special teams coordinator at the University of Kansas. Prior to Kansas, Perry had coached Freeman at Bowie High in Arlington.

It was a perfect fit — FIU needed a linebacker, and Freeman wanted to continue his football career while working on his Master’s degree.

Freeman missed spring ball while he recuperated from surgery, but he has since settled in as a starter next to middle linebacker Sage Lewis.

Against Miami this past Saturday, Freeman made 10 tackles and also batted down a pass intended for tight end Brevin Jordan.

“He brings intensity,” Lewis said of Freeman. “He’s a sure tackler, and that’s what we needed. He was made for the moment. It’s not like he was a freshman who needed to learn.”

Guy said Freeman — who is second on the team in tackles behind Lewis — has been improving each week, losing some weight and regaining his conditioning after the surgery.

“We’re proud of the work he’s done,” Guy said of Freeman, who is listed at 6-1 and 250 pounds. “He has a pretty good skill set.”

Guy said Freeman’s ability to run with Jordan to bat the ball down on that wheel route was impressive.

In addition, Freeman has adjusted this year from playing in a 3-4 defense his entire career at Texas to a 4-3 at FIU.

Then again, that’s a minor adjustment compared to what Freeman has already been through. He was born in Liberia — his mother and two sisters still live there while his father is in Georgia — and moved to Texas when he was five.

The University of Texas was his dream school, but things didn’t quite go his way while wearing a Longhorns uniform. He was productive — he had 13 tackles for losses, four sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one recovered fumble despite making just those five starts — but he played under three coaching staffs in four years.

This year, his adjustment includes new coaches, a new school and a new city. But Freeman is handling it all quite well.

“For a big guy, Ed’s really good coming to balance and making tackles,” Guy said. “He plays the cut-backs really well. He can find the ball and work his way through traffic. He’s a thick-built guy, a physical guy, but he made a couple of nice open-field tackles [against Miami].”

THIS AND THAT

FIU (2-2) is a 37-point favorite at home this Saturday night against Southwestern Athletic Conference school Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-3).

Over the past two weeks, UAPB has lost 90-6 to South Dakota State and 62-13, at home, to conference rival Prairie View A&M.

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