Eltoro Freeman: A mother’s dream comes truePublished 4:25pm Tuesday, December 13, 2011
By Phillip Marshall | AuburnUndercover.com
AUBURN – The national championship, the victory celebrations, the big hits that ignited Jordan-Hare Stadium crowds will be with senior linebacker Eltoro Freeman forever.
Eltoro Freeman will play as an Auburn graduate in his final game.
But no day was bigger, no event more special, no accomplishment more cherished than what happened on Monday. Freeman, who so many said would never do it, walked across the stage as an Auburn University graduate.
“This day was real special,” Freeman said. “This was my mom’s dream when she was a child. When I was growing up, she told me she always wanted to go to Auburn and graduate from Auburn. For me to let her experience that through me, I don’t think I have the words to explain that feeling. That was her dream and her son did it. That was awesome.”
Ted Roof, Auburn’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach until he left last week for Central Florida, thought about Freeman on Monday even as he was on the road recruiting.
“I’m so proud of him,” Roof said. “He came so far in so many ways. What a great accomplishment and what a great day for him and his family.”
Freeman, one of the South’s top prospects, signed with Auburn in February of 2007 out of Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City. But he didn’t qualify and instead went and helped Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College win a national championship. He arrived at Auburn in 2009.
And he will leave with a degree in philosophy.
Freeman was hurt and embarrassed when he didn’t make the grades to enroll at Auburn in 2007. He vowed to his parents that he would show those who thought he couldn’t or he wouldn’t that he could and he would.
“That was one of my biggest things coming out of high school, to see the people I affected, my mom and dad, to see what it did to them,” Freeman said. “I told them ‘Once we get past his bump in the road it will never happen again. I stayed true to my word.’”
It was, after all, a family tradition.
“Going to school, in my household you have to do that,” Freeman said. “My dad was real hard on our grades. That was supposed to be automatic in our family. My sister graduated from Faulkner University, my brother graduated from Faulkner. My other sister is a grad from UAB. My uncles are grads from Alabama State. They are counselors and things like that. It’s in my family, and I’m just glad I can keep that going.”
None of it came easily for Freeman. He was in and out of Auburn coach Gene Chizik’s doghouse. The stardom he expected never really came. But down the stretch of his senior season, he played the best football of his life. And he’ll play his final college game on Dec. 31 when Auburn (7-5) plays Virginia (8-4) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome.
“It’s going to mean the world to me,” Freeman said. “The biggest thing I experienced at Auburn is that my relationship with God has gotten real, real close. I’ve learned no matter what the road may be, no matter what you are going through, just keep the faith in God and things will turn around,” Freeman said.
“You hear that from people. For me to actually go through and see God’s work, I don’t know how to explain that feeling. God has blessed me. I’m very thankful.
“I’m a blessed individual.”
Freeman’s mother Greta echoed much of the same regarding her sons graduation, which she has anticipated since his early days.
“When Eltoro came home Saturday with his Auburn degree it was one of the happiest days of my life,” Greta Freeman said.
“There were times when it was tough for him and me both, but we are the example that if you stay focused, you can achieve anything that you decide to do. Never give up on yourself, and keep trying and trying and you can make it in this world.”
Freeman will now turn his attention towards working out for the 2012 NFL combine, as the linebacker anticipates an invite in the near future.