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With the conclusion of the NFL season following Superbowl Sunday, The Jug will be looking back at how Wildcat alumni fared in the 2012 season. For our fourth installment, we visit 2009 graduate Josh Freeman, one of the most talented quarterbacks to ever play for K-State.
Josh Freeman was a bright spot during an otherwise dark era K-State fans refer to as ‘The Ron Prince Era.’ Freeman started the last eight games of his freshman year and every game from 2007-2008. The team compiled a truly mediocre overall record of 17-20 during this time (7-6, 5-7, 5-7). However, Freeman was instrumental in ensuring the school’s win streak remained intact against Texas. As a freshman he was instrumental in beating the #4 ranked Longhorns 45-42 in Manhattan. The following year he led the Wildcats to a 20-point victory in Austin against #10 Texas.
Over the course of his career with K-State, Freeman compiled a passer rating of 124.7 while throwing for over 8,000 yards. After two years of negative rushing yardage accumulated from taking sacks while rarely straying from the pocket, Freeman became a running threat as a junior. In 2008 he ran for 404 yards and 20 touchdowns. He finished with a a school-record 8,427 total yards while joining Ell Roberson as the only two quarterbacks to record over 60 touchdowns. Freeman declared early for the NFL draft and was taken with the 17th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Freeman was solid overall prospect. Although his collegiate touchdown:interception was far from impressive (44:34), teams were willing to overlook this statistic in light of his spotty offensive line protection and fact that K-State was often playing from behind, forcing Freeman to force throws against defenses playing pass protection. What teams did see was a 6’6”, 250 lbs player with strong fundamentals who scored above average on the Wonderlic exam. He eventually signed a five-year, $26 million contract with another $10 million possible if certain incentives were/are met.
Freeman had an up and down rookie season, which started by winning his first start and helping the Buccaneers break an eleven-game losing streak. However, he finished with only ten touchdowns while throwing 18 interceptions and achieving a 59.8 passer rating in ten games (Freeman sat out the first six games of the season). He proceeded to truly break out his sophomore year, leading a formerly hapless Tampa Bay team to a 10-6 record while connecting for 25 touchdowns with only six picks. Freeman regressed in his third season in the league, recording only 16 touchdowns to 22 interceptions. His quarterback rating dropped from 95.9 the year before to 74.6 quarterback rating as the Bucs finished 4-12.
Freeman somewhat failed to recapture his sophomore magic this past year, but definitely played well enough to cement his place as an NFL starter. He set multiple franchise records in 2012, including most passing yards in a season (4,065), most passing touchdowns in a season (27), and longest completed pass (95 yards). He also set a career high of 7.6 yards/pass attempt. His passer rating of 81.6 was the second highest of his career.
Josh Freeman is entering into the final year of his contract and looks ready to have his most successful season yet. He was forced to make several adjustments last year, with a new head coach and offensive weapons (TE Dallas Clark and WR Vincent Jackson). With a full season of experience working with a different system and players, in addition to breakout rookie Doug Martin commanding respect for the team’s run game, it’s realistic to believe Freeman will once again throw for over 4,000 yards while also topping 30 touchdowns.
But really, if there’s one thing you need to know about Josh Freeman, it’s that he recently did this bangin’ recreation of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller” reincarnation for ESPN the Magazine.