Freeman raises expectation for KFHSPublished 12:02am Sunday, November 24, 2013
King’s Fork High School junior wide receiver/defensive back Akil Freeman turned in a breakout performance on Nov. 15, helping give the Bulldogs their first-ever playoff win.
His two interceptions and a 7-yard touchdown reception in the 31-0 rout of host and higher-seeded Tabb High School led to Freeman’s title as Duke Automotive-Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week.
“I think I did pretty good,” Freeman said, and he was quick to point to his motivation this time out. “I had to do it for the seniors. That really drove us as a team to get the ‘W.’”
Knowing he came up big in such a crucial game meant a lot to him both because of the struggles the young King’s Fork football program has faced in preceding years and the time everyone has spent trying to improve it.
“I know how Coach (Joe) Jones had went through a lot, and how much work we put in in the off-season,” Freeman said.
Jones has appreciated Freeman’s increasing contributions to aid the Bulldogs’ growing success. He said Freeman has provided quality depth both in the secondary and at receiver in his first year full-time on the varsity team.
“He’s getting better every game,” Jones said. “He gets better every day.”
In fact, when filling in for injured senior Jonathan Holloway, Freeman performed well enough that Jones said the replacement could wind up holding onto the position, even after Holloway is healthy again.
Freeman has come a long way from his start playing flag football around the age of 7 for the Bennetts Creek Warriors. His interest in football stemmed from his father, Jerome Freeman.
“He pushed me to actually want to play, because he played in college and high school,” Akil Freeman said. “It just clicked once I got the ball in my hands. I just got a love for it.”
For Dad, the Tabb game was a particularly special confirmation.
“I knew that he had it in him the whole time, I was just hoping he’d get the opportunity to showcase his skills,” Jerome Freeman said.
He has worked with his son for some time to develop his ability.
“We worked out all summer, going to Mount Trashmore, running the hills up there,” the elder Freeman said.
They would use parachutes and weight vests to provide resistance and help build strength.
Jerome Freeman, a Suffolk firefighter, played at I.C. Norcom High School and was a tight end at Norfolk State University.
In the past, he has pulled out his old list of receiver patterns and had his son run the different routes. To help improve Akil’s hand-eye coordination, Jerome Freeman would hurl tennis balls instead of a football.
“I guess that’s another reason that he’s got pretty good hands catching the ball,” Jerome Freeman said.
Jones has noticed Akil Freeman’s skill, nicknaming him “Velcro” because of his sure-handedness last year when he played on the junior varsity team.
In addition to athletic skills, Akil Freeman also demonstrates a ‘ and a team spirit. He plays basketball and runs track, but explains why football is his favorite.
“Because it’s the ultimate team sport,” he said. “You need 11 guys all on the same page in order for it to work. Without that, you screwed up. It’s fun when you win, because you know you won as a team.”
Drive and spirit are particularly key for Freeman because of his size.
“He’s not a real big kid, but he has a whole lot of heart, and I always used to tell him, ‘It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog,’” Jerome Freeman said.