By: Phil Houk of Fighting Irish Preview
Welcome to South Bend, Marcus Freeman. You bring a stellar reputation as an innovative defensive football mind and you are known for being a terrific recruiter.
For those reasons alone and with apologies to Jerry Maguire-Tom Cruise, you had me at “hello”.
But there is more to Marcus Freeman that makes him potentially a tremendous fit on Brian Kelly’s staff.
The new defensive coordinator sat with the media this week as part of a national signing day parade of Brian Kelly and assistant coaches answering questions about the #9 ranked 2021 recruiting class of 27 incoming players (now 28 with the addition of Louisiana running back Logan Diggs).
The best was saved for last, that is when Freeman took the podium.
Freeman was hired on January 8th to take over where Clark Lea, now the top man at Vanderbilt, left off. A graduate of Ohio State, after a short NFL career and 10 years in coaching, he has had tremendous success. In the last three years as DC at Cincinnati, his reputation has rocketed nationally.
As the coaching carousel started its annual spin when the 2020 season wound down, Freeman had options.
There is no doubt that he was the first choice of Notre Dame, and elsewhere, but the allure of the Fighting Irish, something that not everybody gets or is suited for, won out.
After the interviews were over and his options were on the table. Freeman and his wife Joanna, the parents of six, sat down to figure out their next career move. Apparently, the decision was easy, “When… we had a chance to sit down and think about what we want for our family, and what we want to be a part of… there was no decision to be made. To be a part of the program at the University of Notre Dame, its an opportunity you can’t pass up, you just can’t”. Later in the press conference Freeman called the decision a “no brainer”.
Freeman went on to elaborate on ND, “Every day I’m here, I realize more and more why this place is so special. It’s very unique. It’s top of the line in everything we do. And that’s as far as not only football, but academics and everything that comes with being part of Notre Dame”.
Back in 2003, Freeman was actually recruited by Ty Willingham as a player to come to Notre Dame, but settled on his home state favorite Ohio State. When asked about that decision he indicated that perhaps there was a tiny bit of regret, “I think now looking back, you realize this place is really, really special. And the opportunities that you gain after being a graduate of Notre Dame, they’re opportunities that you can’t get everywhere else.”
How will what he learned from his own recruitment to ND translate into his message on the recruiting trail for the Irish? Freeman boils it down nicely, “when you have the opportunity to come to Notre Dame, you better really consider it because the things this place will do for your football career, but also for your life, are hard to match anywhere else in the country.”
The process of meshing with his new coaching staff is well underway and so far has been a success, “Every one of these coaches I’ve been able to meet and talk to and get to know, they’re great, great people. And I think that’s what Coach Kelly has done is put together a staff of great men, that all want to mentor young people, but are competitive and want to win too.”
Marcus Freeman brings a tremendous reputation as a defensive coach and recruiter to South Bend, so much so that he had me at “hello”.
But his strong statements about the University culture and it’s insistence on producing great football players and great young men, bodes well for his time in South Bend and for wherever that may lead him.