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May 14, 2022

Freeman’s Unlikely Journey Leads to Shot With Elks

It’s no easy task to go from rookie camp late addition to earning a spot on the Edmonton Elks roster, but after what Fulani Freeman has come through, this is practically child’s play to the proud father of four.

Nearly a week ago, Edmonton announced it had signed the American defensive lineman. Two days later, the Philadelphia, Pa., product was on the gridiron at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium for Day 1 of Elks rookie camp. Now, Freeman is looking forward to his shot at Elks main camp, which is slated to open Sunday.

At age 28, Freeman was older than almost everyone else at rookie camp. His journey to this point has spanned many years, affording a perspective that can only come from lived experience.

“I’ve dreamt for years of trying to get here, and actually being here I just want to enjoy it,” Freeman says. “I just want to experience a shot of being a professional football player.”

It was over a decade ago that Freeman was a standout tight end and defensive end at Simon Gratz High School, attracting interest from colleges. He didn’t have the grades to gain admission, however, and for a time was homeless. Freeman eventually enrolled in Cheyney University in Cheyney, Pa., but lasted only semester.

“I wasn’t doing good in school, I wasn’t playing football because I had to sit out a year, so I dropped out my first year and college and just worked,” Freeman says.

By age 20 Freeman was married but divorced within a couple years. He started thinking about going back to school, still wanting to play football. Through all the trials and tribulations, one thing Freeman did was maintain peak fitness.

“I made a lot of sacrifices,” he says. “It was tough. I was homeless a lot of the times, but I used my athletic ability to start personal training. I did Herbalife for a long time, which was personal development as well as a lot of tough workouts.

“I just knew that I wanted to keep my body in shape. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew I wanted to play football, so if anything, I was going to try to stay in shape as much as I could.”

PATH BACK TO FOOTBALL

Opportunity knocked with an invite to a prospect camp, attended by many of the colleges that had recruited Freeman years earlier while he was in high school. Not only were they surprised to see him, but by how well he performed.

Freeman ended up going to Valley Forge Military Academy and College, a private boarding school and military junior college in Pennsylvania. He attended VFMAC for two years, exceling at his studies and becoming a first lieutenant.

“I was given a lot of structure and was really able to get myself together, and I ended feeling really well again,” he says.

Freeman received a football scholarship from West Chester University, an NCAA Division II school in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. He saw his first action with the Golden Rams as a junior in 2019, recording 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 8 games.

PUTTING FAMILY FIRST

For Freeman it wasn’t merely juggling his studies with football. His biggest priority was his three young daughters. Somehow, he made it all work.

“Even when I had kids, I didn’t take any days off while I was in college,” Freeman says. “They went to class with me, they came to practice with me. I didn’t take any breaks from being a dad while I was playing football.”

Freeman concluded his college career last season, appearing in 8 games with the Golden Rams, notching 9 tackles and 3 sacks. He feels he can make more of an impact in the CFL, where his athletic ability and speed is advantageous on the wider field.

“I always wanted to go to (pro football) and I always worked hard to get here, but now that I’m here, I just want to have fun while I’m doing it,” he says.