Marcus Freeman was one of a handful of Buckeyes that could have left Ohio State and entered the NFL following the 2007 season. But, like so many of his teammates, Freeman decided to return to Columbus and play in 2008.
"I came back because I just wasn't ready to give up what we have here as Ohio State football players," Freeman explained. "The tradition of Ohio State football is obvious, but once you experience it as a player, it really grabs hold of you. I have things here that no NFL team could give me. The friendships I've made will last me a lifetime and I wasn't ready to leave my friends just yet. We all made separate decisions, but I think most of the guys just hated the thought of leaving at this time. We all had our own reasons, but that was one constant for all of us."
Freeman is a little different from most of his teammates because he is a father, and he has separate challenges of helping to raise a little one. He spoke of how being a parent impacts his life as a college football player.
"On the field, I think I'm the same player I would be whether I was a parent, or not," Freeman said. "I love the game of football and being a father won't change that for me. Off the field is a different story. The best part of it is how it has helped me mature as a person, knowing life is about more than just yourself. As I think about it, that probably has helped me become a better player on the field. I've learned how important it is to take care of my responsibilities and that has probably made me a better football player. My family comes first and I know I have to be mature and be accountable to them."
Freeman is a true example of the term "student-athlete", as he has already obtained his degree from Ohio State. His college degree is a source of great pride to himself and his family.
"I've already graduated from Ohio State and I'm enrolled in a graduate program," he stated. "Having a college degree is tremendously important. I constantly tell the young guys that football will not last forever. The average NFL career lasts only a few years, so you have to be prepared to go out into the world and be successful outside of football. Coach Tressel preaches that all the time, and fortunately I listened to his advice. He always tells us to leave Ohio State with something positive, not just football memories. My family is proud of the fact that I have a college degree and I am too. I feel I'm prepared to succeed in life after football, whenever that day comes around."
Freeman has been in the program as long as any other player on the team. He spoke about the concept of leadership within the framework of the team.
"I feel that leadership is a combination of many different things," Freeman explained. "Not only is it being the guy who steps up and says what needs to be said, but you need to be the guy that leads by example every single day. It's tremendously important to be accountable. When somebody is counting on you to do your job, you have to be able to do what people are counting on you to perform. That incorporates a lot of what being a true leader is all about. We're taught about how important being a leader is from Coach Tressel, and in fact he's the best leader we have."
A common theme among this Ohio State football team is the immense respect they have for head coach Jim Tressel. Marcus Freeman is no different.
"I think of Jim Tressel as a teacher, first off," he said. "He's taught me so many lessons that I will remember for the rest of my life. Coming to Ohio State is like entering grade school as a young boy, but now I feel I'm ready to take on this world by myself. Coach Tressel has helped me grow up into a man and I owe him so much. He wants to prepare us for life, and to be able to succeed in life. That's what he wants, and expects, from his players. I think the world of the man."
Freeman knows there are high expectations for a team that returns so many veterans. He thinks this edition of the Ohio State Buckeyes can be pretty good.
"I really think the sky is the limit for this team," he said emphatically. "I know that sounds like the ultimate sports term, but I believe it's true. We have a lot of talent like we always do, but I think this is a very mature football team. The expectations are the same every year at Ohio State and that's to win a national championship. We know it starts with Youngstown State and it finishes with Michigan. We have expectations of being in the national championship game again and we won't settle for anything less. My goal, and every member of this team should agree, is to get back to the national championship game and win it. I think about that every day of the week. All throughout the spring and all through summer workouts, that was what was on my mind. I hope everyone feels that same way. I didn't come back to accept anything less than a championship and I'm working toward that goal every day."