Evans quarterback Brad Freeman drops back for a pass.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Most athletes would welcome a comparison to Michael Jordan.
Evans quarterback Brad Freeman shares certain qualities with his airness. Both have a penchant for tongue-wagging during games.
Jordan's was intentional, while Freeman's is not.
"Everybody tells me I stick out my tongue while playing, but I don't realize it," he said. "But I'll take any comparison to Michael Jordan that I get."
Freeman also shares Jordan's ability to lead a team.
The 5-foot-11 signal caller has been the key ingredient in the rebirth of Evans football this season. His play behind center has led the Knights into the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
The senior has also allowed coach Marty Jackson and offensive coordinator Mike Bibee to utilize a multi-dimensional offensive attack that was missing during a 3-7 campaign in 2003.
"Brad gives us a tremendous amount of versatility," Jackson said. "His passing threat means defenses can't focus on stopping the run."
Defenses keying on All-Area running back Cheng Ho have allowed Freeman to lead the area in completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio.
But it hasn't been an easy path for Freeman.
After summer practices last year, Jackson awarded Freeman the starting quarterback job.
During the final scrimmage of the preseason, Freeman suffered a severely separated shoulder. He missed six weeks but never really regained the proficiency he showed in the preseason and shared time with Tim Steflik to finish the year.
"It was tough because I thought I could really do a lot for the team last year," Freeman said. "Sitting out and splitting time allowed me to observe how everyone played the game. I also developed leadership qualities from talking with some of the other players on the sidelines."
Freeman (left) stands next to running back Cheng Ho during practice. The senior has led the Knights football team into the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Freeman dedicated himself in the offseason to become a team leader and a better quarterback.
A 60 percent completion percentage, 1,040 yards passing and seven touchdowns have shown that renewed dedication despite his playing with a shoulder that is still out of place. The ligaments have grown over the bone but Freeman says he is 100 percent.
"Brad came out this year and showed everyone that he would be the guy to take us to the next level," said receiver Shawn Ward. "He has not disappointed."
The student body has taken notice of the team's best season in four years. The Knights won six games over the past three seasons and school spirit grew.
The Knights' students traveled to and filled the visiting sections at Greenbrier and Harlem, both Evans victories.
"It has been unreal, the support we've received," Freeman said. "It has made me want to be a better player."
Freeman connected with Ryan Crislip for a touchdown to beat Laney earlier in the season. He has also led game-winning scoring drives against Effingham County and rival Lakeside.
"Brad's biggest asset is his intelligence," Bibee said. "He is one of the smartest quarterbacks around because he will take a sack instead of making a dumb throw that could cost us the game."
Freeman credits Ho and a stellar receiving corps of Ward, Steflik and Crislip for his emergence this season.
"My receivers are playmakers," he said. "If you throw it in their proximity, they will catch it. They really do make me look good."
Freeman and the rest of the offense will have to be infallible in the Knights' playoff opener against Creekside. The Knights are heavy underdogs and will have to make the long trip to Fairburn.
Freeman, though, remains confident the Knights can extend their season.
"I will be upset if we don't win a state title," he said. "I don't want it to end. But you better believe that if this is my last time in pads, I'm going to lay it all out on the field."
Like Mike, Freeman also dabbles in baseball. He actually is a better prospect in baseball and will probably receive a scholarship. But the planned pre-med major's passion is football.
"If I can play somewhere, anywhere, that's were I'll go," Freeman said. "I'm just not ready to give it up."
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