Tom Freeman, Jr., a talented offensive guard from Kansas City, grew up in a Notre Dame family.
His parents graduated from Notre Dame. His father played as a left guard on the Irish offensive line from 1983-87, the last two years under Lou Holtz.
Growing up, Tom would sit with his dad in North End Zone seats at numerous games in the House That Rock Built. He watched the players enter and exit through the tunnel beneath him. He’d join in the Alma Mater at the end of the game as players and students saluted each other, finishing in the crescendo “Love Thee Notre Dame.” Tom dreamed of becoming one of them.
He attended Junior Days and summer camps, hoping to impress the coaching staff with his skills and work ethic.
Tom had anchored a Rockhurst High School offensive line that took the Missouri state football championship in 2007 and contended for the championship in 2008.
As the recruiting season wore on, the Irish obtained commitments from Chris Watts, Rival’s No. 2 Offensive Guard in the nation, and Alex Bullard, the No. 15 rated guard—the top guard tandem of any team nationally. Notre Dame had taken two centers, Mike Golic, Jr. and Brandon Cave in 2008. The Irish staff now needed tackles.
At 6'4" and 280 pounds, Freeman attracted scholarship offers from Northwestern, South Florida, Duke, Harvard, Army, Air Force, and Ball State.
With the grades to get accepted to some of the top schools in the country, Freeman still was up front with them. Notre Dame was where he wanted to be. Perhaps that’s why Stanford did not offer.
Signing Day came and went without Tom inking his commitment. The Freeman family had decided. Tom would walk-on at his dream school.
In a Scout article, his father said: “He grew up in a Notre Dame family with Notre Dame tradition around him. It’s what he’s always dreamed of doing, and I think that’s going to be a big help to him. He understands what it means to be a Notre Dame football player and the tradition that goes into it. He’s not going up there for a free education. He’s going back there to try and help them get back to where they were for many, many years. Nobody is going to outwork him or out hustle him. I just feel confident he has all the tools to do it. Like Lou Holtz always said, it’s a 40-year decision, not a four-year decision.”
Yesterday, Charlie Weis and Rob Ianello awarded Tom a Preferred Walk-On status, meaning he will be on the roster and can earn a future scholarship.
Nate Montana came to Notre Dame last year as a Preferred Walk-On. Shane Walton, a three year starter and All-American in 2002 and Mike Anello were walk-ons. Other prominent walk-ons at Notre Dame are reviewed in this article.
Rivals may have ranked Freeman as a three-star recruit. So was Jeff Samardzija (a two-time All-American), Ryan Harris (now a starter with the Denver Broncos), Chinedum Ndukwe (a Cincinnati Bengal), John Carlson (Seattle Seahawks), Darius Walker, David Bruton, David Grimes, Pat Kuntz, and Mike Turkovich.
Hard work, heart, and pursuing your dreams. Welcome to Notre Dame, Tom. I’ll look for you coming out of the tunnel.