Wednesday, September 15, 2004
By Michael Banks
Bo Freelend is not your average punter. Punters are not supposed to weigh more than linebackers. Punters usually don't play tight end or wingback in high school. Most of the time punters and kickers are short and small and just have a strong leg. At 6-4, 260 pounds, Bo Freelend is different.
Freelend was born and raised in Central City, Nebraska, a small town about two hours from Lincoln, Nebraska. At the age of 16 he moved to Eutaw, Alabama where he was a four-sport athlete at Warrior Academy. Freelend played basketball and baseball but excelled in track and football. He won the state discus title as a sophomore, junior and senior. On the football field he played everything but offensive guard and tackle. He was his team's MVP for three straight seasons primarily playing tight end and wingback on offense, linebacker and defensive end on defense and punting. Freelend was highly recruited until his senior season when he blew out his knee. So the lifelong Cornhusker fan took his skills to Tuscaloosa for a tryout.
"The schools stopped showing interest," Freelend said of his recruitment following his injury. "I went to Alabama for a tryout and the coaching staff asked me to be a walk-on."
Freelend has been through a lot since coming to the Capstone. He initially walked on when Mike DuBose was head coach. He was redshirted that year and did not see varsity action in 2001 and 2002 under Dennis Franchione while playing behind Lane Bearden and Michael Ziifle.
Last year Freelend was the Tide's punter in all 13 games and averaged 40.8 yards on 73 punts. Freelend punted six times more than any punter in the Southeastern Conference.
Against Northern Illinois, Freelend punted six times for an average of 39.2 yards and had one punt blocked. But even though three of his six kicks were inside the 20 yard line, fans were not pleased.
"After the Northern Illinois game, I made fun of the criticism," Freelend said. "When I was at practice the next day I told the guys that the fans had given me a new nickname because they called me `Boo' every time I ran off the field. But there are two ways I look at criticism and the jeers. One way is to laugh at it and the other is to use it as motivation."
Freelend certainly used his next opportunities to his advantage. After punts of 29 and nine yards against LSU, Freelend booted a punt of 49 yards with the Tide backed up to its own 14 yard line.
"When I came off the field after the bad punts I told my teammates that it was on me," Freelend said. "But then I said that the next one is definitely on me. When someone says you can't do something, I try and do it that much better."
Freelend would like to go into coaching after his playing days, focusing on special teams. But for now, his goals are to have at least a 45 yard average, a lot of hang time on his kicks and try to help his team make it to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game.
"Winning the SEC would be awesome," Freelend said. "After all we've been through over the last two years I've noticed so much more energy in this team. We're all working toward one goal and that is winning."