Josh Freeman could’ve joined the ranks of Brad Johnson, Doug Williams, and Trent Dilfer as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise history.
Instead, Freeman’s six-year NFL football career quickly fizzled out after a promising start.
Freeman was a dual-threat quarterback who racked up three straight seasons with at least 3,451 passing yards from 2010 to 2012. He was on pace to become a Pro Bowl quarterback.
When new Bucs head coach Greg Schiano entered the fray in 2012, Freeman’s downward spiral began.
His rumored off-the-field behavior and poor play on the gridiron prompted Schiano to bench Freeman in favor of Mike Glennon in 2013.
Josh Freeman’s fall from grace was complete when he retired from the Canadian Football League (CFL) in the spring of 2018. He never played a single down North of the border.
Freeman’s story is a reminder to aspiring football players to make the most of every opportunity they get on the gridiron.
Joshua Tyler Freeman was born to parents Ron and Teresa in Kansas City, MO on January 13, 1988. He has a brother Caleb and two sisters, Aubree and Dacia.
Freeman inherited his football genes from his dad Ron, who played linebacker for the Pittsburgh State Gorillas during his college days.
Ron Freeman, who eventually coached the Grandview Bulldogs football team from 2008 to 2010, recalled one of Josh’s games in eighth grade.
Back then, Josh was a running back for his junior high school football team. He was banged up but gutted it out despite the grueling circumstances.
Ron Freeman was one proud dad – he knew his son was destined for stardom on the professional gridiron someday.
Josh Freeman had always wanted to become an NFL quarterback when he was growing up in Kansas City.
In fact, Freeman drew up “The Plan” – a detailed, step-by-step outline that would help him achieve this lofty goal – when he was still in grade school.
“Ever since I was younger, I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up,” Freeman told Buccaneers.com in his fourth NFL season in 2012. “I wrote down all of the steps that it would take to reach each goal on the way to becoming an NFL quarterback.”
Josh Freeman attended Grandview High School. He excelled as quarterback for the Grandview Bulldogs.
Josh Freeman at Grandview High School . Now we know why #12. pic.twitter.com/2ul1cmVPNY
— Kevin McMahon (@KevinsOpinions) October 9, 2013
Freeman racked up more than 7,000 passing yards during his high school football career.
Freeman also broke several school records, including career passing yardage (7,175), career passing touchdowns (78), passing yardage in a game (403), and touchdowns in a single game (six), per Tampa.CBSLocal.com’s Kyra Hallett.
With Freeman as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback, Grandview High made three straight postseason appearances. He helped the Bulldogs reach the state quarterfinals as a sophomore. Freeman led them to the sectional round as a senior in 2005.
Consequently, Freeman earned statewide recognition in Kansas following his senior season. He earned First Team Class 4 All-State honors from the Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association. The Kansas City Star also named Freeman to its annual All-Metro Team.
Both Rivals.com and Scout.com named Freeman a four-star prospect in 2005. Freeman also won the Tony Simone Award as the best football player in the Kansas City metro area.
Josh Freeman wasn’t just a high school quarterback with a rifle of an arm – he also exemplified outstanding leadership qualities.
His dad Ron recalled times when Josh encouraged his teammates and challenged them to play to the best of their abilities.
One time Ron Freeman got a haircut with a new barber. The latter told him a story about a student at Grandview High helping a lost special needs student find her classroom.
The good Samaritan was Freeman’s son, Josh.
“(The barber) didn’t know who I was,” Ron Freeman told the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2020. “And he said he didn’t know the kid’s name but he was the quarterback on the football team. As a dad, that just makes you feel proud.”
Freeman’s exploits on the high school gridiron made him a highly-touted recruit. Many college football scouts and coaches envisioned Freeman, who stood 6’5″ and weighed 225 pounds in high school, as a tight end, per GazetteReview.com’s Jake Briscoe.
Among the schools that coveted Freeman were the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Oklahoma Sooners, Texas A&M Aggies, Wisconsin Badgers, Colorado Buffaloes, Iowa Hawkeyes, and Kansas Jayhawks.
However, Freeman’s heart was set on playing quarterback in the National Football League. He turned down offers from programs that wanted him as a tight end.
Freeman originally chose the Nebraska Cornhuskers football program. However, he ultimately had a change of heart when new Kansas State Wildcats mentor Ron Prince convinced him to remain in-state to play for them.
Josh Freeman eventually became one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in Kansas State football program history.
College Days With The Kansas State Wildcats
Josh Freeman attended Kansas State University from 2006 to 2008. He majored in business administration.
Freeman played for Kansas State Wildcats head football coach Ron Prince, who replaced the legendary Bill Snyder.
According to Hallett, Freeman is the first true freshman quarterback to start for the Wildcats since the 1976 NCAA season.
Freeman had eleven starts for Kansas State in 2006. He set a new freshman record with 1,780 passing yards that year.
Freeman also became the first Kansas State player in five years to earn consecutive Big 12 Conference Player of the Week honors.
With Freeman firing on all cylinders, the Wildcats won seven games in his true freshman season. He was the only true freshman signal-caller in the nation who led his team to a bowl game in 2006, per the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Look at this absolute cannon Josh Freeman had while at Kansas State 🚀.
— Saturday Gameday (@SaturdayGameday) January 13, 2022
Unfortunately, Kansas State lost to Ray Rice’s 16th-ranked Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the inaugural Texas Bowl in blowout fashion, 37-10.
Nonetheless, Josh Freeman continued his ascent in the college football ranks. He averaged 19 touchdown passes in the next two seasons while reducing his interception numbers from eleven to eight.
Freeman broke five school passing records including passing yardage in a single season (3,353 yards) as a junior in 2007. To nobody’s surprise, he earned All-Big 12 honorable mention honors that year.
Unfortunately, Kansas State averaged just five wins per year from 2007 to 2008. The Wildcats didn’t receive a bowl invite during that two-year time frame.
For his part, Freeman decided to forego his senior season at Kansas State and declare for the 2009 NFL Draft.
Josh Freeman finished his three-year college football career with 8,078 passing yards, 44 touchdown passes, and 34 interceptions.
Freeman established himself as a reliable dual-threat signal-caller. Not only did he have a strong throwing arm, but he also had nimble feet. Freeman had 20 rushing touchdowns – 14 in his junior season alone – at Kansas State.
Josh Freeman had the makings of a star at the National Football League level. Regrettably, his star faded sooner than most people expected.
Pro Football Career
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made Josh Freeman the 17th overall selection of the 2009 NFL Draft.
He was the third quarterback drafted behind the Georgia Bulldogs’ Matthew Stafford and the USC Trojans’ Mark Sanchez.
Freeman became the first quarterback the Buccaneers selected in the first round since they drafted the Fresno State Bulldogs’ Trent Dilfer fifteen years earlier.
Freeman signed a five-year, $36 million rookie contract with the Bucs. The deal included $10.245 million in guaranteed money, per ESPN.
Freeman made no secret he wanted to become Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback as early as training camp in 2009.
Before long Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris granted the 21-year-old Freeman his wish – he became the youngest starting quarterback in franchise history to win his first game.
Freeman achieved the feat with 205 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one interception in the Bucs’ 38-28 win over Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers on November 8, 2009.
According to the Buccaneers’ official website, Freeman became the first player in franchise history to throw three touchdown passes in a single game.
“It was what we thought he was,” Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris told Buccaneers.com after the game. “That’s why we brought him in here to lead this franchise.”
Freeman’s breakout debut coincided with two memorable events in Tampa Bay franchise history.
First, the Bucs introduced former defensive end, Lee Roy Selmon, to its new Ring of Honor at halftime.
Tampa Bay also wore its throwback orange uniforms during the game against Green Bay. It was the first time the Buccaneers wore their orange threads since the 1996 NFL season.
Prior to Josh Freeman’s first NFL start, the Buccaneers had lost eleven games in a row. Tampa Bay had lost seven consecutive games to start the 2009 NFL campaign when Freeman took over as the Bucs’ starting quarterback.
Freeman had a sub-par rookie year. He had 1,855 passing yards, 10 touchdown passes, and 18 interceptions.
The Bucs had a terrible 3-13 win-loss record in Freeman’s rookie season. Since winning Super Bowl XXXVII, Tampa Bay had missed the postseason in five of the past seven years.
When Josh Freeman started all sixteen games for the Buccaneers in the 2010 NFL season, they quickly turned the corner.
Behind Freeman’s 3,451 passing yards, 25 touchdown passes, and six interceptions, Tampa Bay won ten games and narrowly missed the postseason in 2010.
Freeman continued playing at a high level over the next two seasons. He racked up a combined 7,657 passing yards and 43 touchdown passes from 2011 to 2012.
— Ace Shrift (@TheMichaelB27) October 3, 2013
Unfortunately, his accuracy slipped considerably – Freeman had a combined 39 interceptions during those two years.
The Bucs averaged barely six wins per year from 2011 to 2012, extending their postseason drought to five years.
The noticeable dip in Josh Freeman’s accuracy prompted Buccaneers management to draft North Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon in 2013.
Freeman wasn’t up to the task of competing against Glennon – the former didn’t perform well in training camp and preseason.
Speculations about Freeman’s life away from the gridiron became rampant around this time – rumors abounded that he partied hard regularly.
Suspicions around the Tampa Bay area became even more aroused when Freeman overslept and missed the Bucs’ team photo.
Freeman started the 2013 NFL season on a sour note. His inaccuracy and questionable decision-making were factors in Tampa Bay’s atrocious 0-3 start.
Freeman completed just 46 percent of his passes and recorded an abysmal 59.3 rating during that three-game stretch.
Before long things went from bad to worse for Freeman.
First, second-year Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano benched Freeman in favor of Glennon.
Second, Freeman voluntarily entered the NFL’s drug program as a stage one participant on September 30, 2013, to dispel any false rumors and clear his name once and for all.
In a statement PFT’s Mike Florio obtained in the fall of 2013, Freeman revealed he had ADHD. He had to take prescription medication for his entire pro football career.
“Well over a year ago, I took a different medication for the same condition (Ritalin rather than Adderall),” Freeman explained in the statement. “And to assure everyone that the error was a one-time mistake, I agreed to be voluntarily tested in the ‘NFL Program.'”
Freeman also claimed he had passed all 46 drug tests he had taken until that point in time.
After unsuccessfully trying to trade the disgruntled Freeman, the Buccaneers eventually released him on October 3, 2013.
Over the next two years, Freeman spent short stints with the Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, the FXFL’s Brooklyn Bolts, and the Indianapolis Colts.
NOW: The Montreal Alouettes have signed former NFL quarterback Josh Freeman. pic.twitter.com/me8Nkk3pUr
— 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 Canada 🇨🇦 (@sportingnewsca) January 13, 2018
Josh Freeman’s last lease on his pro football life was the Canadian Football League (CFL).
Freeman flew to Montreal, Quebec for his medical and then watched a Montreal Canadiens hockey game in the winter of 2016.
He attended CFL Week in Winnipeg, Manitoba in March 2017. Witnesses saw him smoking a cigarette during the festivities.
He eventually signed a two-year deal with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes on January 12, 2018. His contract had a base salary of CA $70,000.
Freeman, a former first-round draft choice in the National Football League, never thought he’d wind up North of the border as his gridiron career wound down.
“I never thought this was going to come to fruition,” Freeman told the Montreal Gazette’s Herb Zurkowsky in the spring of 2018.
The Alouettes envisioned Freeman competing for the starting quarterback spot with Drew Willy, Matt Shiltz, and Antonio Pipkin.
Regrettably, Freeman never had that chance – he announced his retirement from pro football on May 26, 2018.
He had 13,873 passing yards, 81 touchdown passes, and 68 interceptions during his six-year career in the National Football League.
— Joshua T. Freeman (@JF5x) September 3, 2012
Freeman was a visible figure in various charity events in Central Florida from 2009 to 2013.
He spearheaded a game day program called “Freeman’s Front Line” that gave tickets to underprivileged kids and local charities.
Freeman also attended various meet-and-greet events with Buccaneers fans and visited MacDill Air Force Base, per Hallett.
When Freeman entered his fourth pro football season in 2012, he passed down “The Plan” – the ambitious step-by-step plan he drew up in grade school – to students in the Tampa Bay area.
The Buccaneers recorded a video of Freeman describing “The Plan.” They gave out the videos to 20,000 students in the Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in September 2012.
Freeman and Tampa Bay Buccaneers team officials chose the best 50 student “Plans.” The winners attended the Bucs’ game against the Atlanta Falcons on November 25, 2012.
Josh Freeman told the Montreal Gazette he put his Tampa Bay mansion on the market for just under $2 million in the spring of 2018. He had also invested most of the $26 million he earned from the five-year rookie deal he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009.
The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame inducted Freeman in 2020.
Not much is known about Freeman’s post-football life. He was active on Twitter until the summer of 2013 but has kept himself out of the public spotlight since then.
Some of his posts showed his admiration for soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.
— Joshua T. Freeman (@JF5x) April 25, 2012
Josh Freeman apparently showed interest in joining the FBI in January 2020. The JoeBucsFan.com website claimed he attended an FBI job fair in the Kansas City, MO area that month.