Sunday, April 11, 2010

A FAMILIAR FACE ON OSU'S SIDELINE

OSU assistant coach Marcus Freeman, left, instructs linebacker Dorian Bell during Saturday's kick scrimmage at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. (Buckeye Times photo by Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

COLUMBUS — Not only will the Ohio State linebacking unit have two veteran leaders running the show this season in seniors Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, but they will also have a mentor on the sideline who knows a thing or two about what it takes to play the position — and play it well — as a Buckeye.

Former OSU linebacker Marcus Freeman has been assisting linebackers coach Luke Fickell this spring and will continue to do so this fall as a graduate assistant coach.

Homan, who played with Freeman during the 2008 season, said that it's strange that there's a coach on the sideline that he actually played with, but says that there is no person who knows the system better than his former teammate.

"It's kind of a weird feeling, I mean two years ago I was playing with him," Homan laughed. "He knows our system, through and through. It's another coach on the sideline that you come over and ask him, 'what did you see here, what did you see there?'"

"It's going to be a huge plus for our linebackers and our defense to have him coaching on our sideline."

After starting at linebacker for the Buckeyes for three seasons (2006-08), Freeman went on to be drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. After being released by the Bears after last preseason, Freeman had a few practice squad stints with the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans, and was about to sign with the Indianapolis Colts, before their medical staff noticed during tests that he had an enlarged heart valve.

Freeman, who has a bachelor's degree from Ohio State in sports management, knew that his playing days were finished after the diagnosis. So he did the next best thing, he decided to help others by being a coach at the university where he starred for so many years.

Freeman's basically doing what the late, great Woody Hayes instructed — he's "Paying it forward."

Homan said there isn't a better person to pattern yourself after than Freeman.

"Marcus is a great role model," Homan said. "He's the type you want to go after and be like. He's a great player, and a great person overall."