DeVonta Freeman’s journey to NFL more difficult than most

Players like Falcons rookie running back DeVonta Freeman have endured a lot of hardships on their path to the pro’s in the past. However, his story seems to hit even closer to home once you get to hear his side of how it was to grow up poor in South Florida’s Liberty City in the ‘Pork-n-Beans’ projects.

One story that comes to mind, is back in 2012 when Houston Texans running back Arian Foster broke down and cried when describing the story of his mother pawning her wedding ring to help put food on the table. He told this story at his press conference for signing a new multi-year contract extension back then.

Freeman’s story is similar, as he told his story on Saturday following another batch of Falcons training camp practice. It’s been a long road here, but Freeman says he’s been well on his way to making it big a long time ago.

“When I look back to where I came from, I just think of all the struggles we had,” Freeman said. “All the struggles my mom, grandmother had, and when I lost my auntie. When I had to sacrifice a lot of things at young age and I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew I had to sacrifice and work to help feed my mama.”

Freeman says that his Christian faith is another factor towards being thankful for the blessings he’s had in life, as he’s tried to make it to the NFL. He’s felt like Atlanta has been home from the beginning. Now trying to make the Atlanta Falcons seems to be a lot easier than some of the other things he endured growing up in the Miami-area.

“Football has been easy a long time ago compared to my lifestyle growing up,” Freeman said. “I just think the main thing with football is you’ve just got to be physical. But growing up was way tougher. Some night’s I didn’t eat, light’s got cut off for two weeks, hurricane in the ‘Pork-n-Beans’ projects with no water, mom’s out there slaving for a job, and barely paying bills. It humbled me so much to constantly work hard to constantly work harder and harder every day to protect and feed my family every day.”

When the Falcons drafted Freeman back in May, he couldn’t control his excitement for coming to Atlanta.

“I took a visit up there once, and I promise I was like I want this to be my home,” Freeman said in a draft day conference call. “I love the atmosphere. It reminds me so much of Miami. When I was at school, I was like please to God… I’m so happy. God works so good. I’m just so blessed. Thank y’all. Y’all don’t understand. It’s just a blessing just for y’all to call my name. I’m going to work. I promise that. I promise I’m going to go to work every single day.”

Freeman also has a very good relationship with former ‘Two Live Crew’ rap star Luther Campbell, otherwise known as “Uncle Luke” from his upbringing in South Florida. Campbell always served as a mentor to him and helped him make the right choices in life and even hooked him up with a job at a local funeral home to get him some money to help his family out. Freeman and Campbell are still very close.

Another mentor for Freeman is his college coach at Florida State, Jimbo Fisher.

“There were a couple of things that were demanded at Florida State work hard, consistency, persistency, and protect the quarterback then you can play for Jimbo Fisher,” Freeman said. “That was demanded. If you could not block, then you couldn’t play. If you run a good play and then run a bad play, you could not play. Inconsistent cannot play.”

Freeman says he’s always been a persistent person and even had Fisher trying to convince him to cut back a little on the work he would put in after practice’s, for fear that he was maybe putting too much stress on his body. Freeman says that work ethic is what helped him win the national title last season over Auburn in Pasadena, California.

Now, Freeman is trying to earn significant playing time during his rookie season in Atlanta. He seems to already be off to a good start with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. His quarterback Matt Ryan has been impressed with this part of his game. Now, he’ll get even more reps in the preseason with the injury to fellow running back Steven Jackson.

Freeman’s first professional preseason game is this Friday night against the Miami Dolphins inside the Georgia Dome. Right now, it looks like he’ll be with the second team offense when they take the field.


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