Marcus Freeman swore he would never be a social media guy. Even in his NFL days, he wanted nothing to do with Facebook and Twitter. But the former Ohio State linebacker also couldn't have guessed he'd become a Purdue Boilermaker.
After retiring from football at the age of 24 due to a heart condition, Freeman became a coach. He served as a graduate assistant at his alma mater for one season before joining Darrell Hazell at Kent State for two seasons. When Hazell was hired at Purdue, Freeman came along with him.
It was during a staff meeting in February when Freeman was encouraged to create a Facebook and Twitter account, which would serve as a recruiting tool. My, how things can change.
“When I get around my wife and kids,” said Freeman, “she’s always yelling at me: ‘Get off your phone. Get off Twitter.’ But it’s fun.”
The former Buckeye has embraced being a Boilermaker, and has used Twitter to express that.
With each of Freeman’s tweets, the reaction from Purdue fans has been positive. But not everybody has appreciated his newfound loyalty. Freeman has been questioned by Ohio State friends and fans how the Buckeye could become a proud Boilermaker.
Freeman’s primary recruiting territory is Columbus, Ohio, where he now wears black and old gold while meeting with Purdue prospects.
“I’m all in,” Freeman said. “I’m a Buckeye, but right now, I’m all in, I’m a Boiler.”
As a Buckeye, Freeman enjoyed great success as part of Jim Tressel’s program. He was part of two Fiesta Bowl victories, two National Championship Game appearances and 51 victories. Freeman brings that winning mentality to Purdue.
“That’s where we come from,” he said. “We come from a successful program, a successful coach, and that’s all we did—we won. We know what it feels like to be successful.”
As Purdue’s linebackers coach, Freeman has high expectations. He demands work ethic from each of his players.
“He’s intense,” said senior linebacker Sean Robinson. “He demands a certain out of you, and he’s going to get it out of you. If he sees you slacking, he’s going to call you out and make sure it’s coached or changed.”
During each practice, Freeman constantly communicates. He’ll call a player to his side and offer praise, teach how to correct an error, or even just strike up a conversation.
Freeman’s tone never changes. He isn’t the type to yell, but his presence is still commanding. He coaches with a linebacker’s intensity.
“He’s really energetic and he’s always focused,” senior linebacker Will Lucas said. “He hasn’t changed so far, he’s always the same way—upbeat. He’s going to coach you.”
The 27-year-old coach brings Purdue a winning pedigree and the will to improve. On day one with his linebacking core, Freeman conveyed to his players what must change.
“We’re too OK with being average,” Freeman said. “I’m not OK that as a coach.”
With that linebacker’s intensity, Freeman is working toward changing the culture of his new program.