WIDELY REGARDED AS ONE OF THE STATE’S TOP SAFE- ties in his class as a sophomore, Arlington Bowie’s Edwin Freeman could have easily stood pat and cashed in on one of the many Division 1 scholarship offers.
Instead, at the request of former Arlington Bowie coach Kenny Perry,
Freeman switched to linebacker in the middle of his junior year to help his
team. With college coaches and recruiters watching with a close eye, Freeman added 20 pounds of muscle, learned a new position, and became an
even more attractive prospect after a breakout season.
“It was different,” Freeman says. “I was learning a lot of new stuff. Start-
ing out, I had to learn what to do. It took time to adjust to it.”
Boasting rare speed and strength, Freeman controlled games from the
linebacker position, cutting off sweeps in the backfield while flashing the
ability to cover receivers downfield. In order to maintain his speed while
adding weight, Freeman ran two miles a day after practice. He also worked
on his quick bursts of speed by training in the 40-yard dash.
“I run a lot,” Freeman says. “I also come in for practice 30 minutes early
to watch film. Speed doesn’t do you any good if you don’t know where to go
during a game. I’m trying to be as smart as I can be on the field.”
Freeman’s breakout performance came as a sophomore when he
returned two fumbles for touchdowns in a game against North Crowley.
What he remembers more than the touchdowns is the final score of that
game – 42-21 Arlington Bowie.
“Personally, I don’t worry about the certain plays I make,” Freeman says.
“I can make 10 tackles and we can lose, and that’s something different.”
At 6-foot- 1, 216 pounds, Freeman has heard from some college coaches who envision him as a safety, and others who see him as a linebacker.
He has no preference, as long as he’s making plays.
“Whatever the coach has lined up, I’m fine with it,” Freeman says. “I
really just like to watch the quarterback, see where he’s looking, and then
whatever happens, happens.”
DYLAN SUMNER-GARDNER WAS hardly thinking of playing college football as a sophomore at West Mes- quite High when he was designated
for the junior varsity squad.
As it turned out, Sumner-Gardner was simply
miscast by the West Mesquite coaching staff.
After spending his entire youth league career
and freshman season at defensive end, Sumner-Gardner switched positions midway through high
school. At 6-foot- 1, 190 pounds, he had the build
to move to a skill position, but he wasn’t able to
showcase his athleticism in the trenches.
“I was always pretty good at football, but I was
so used to hitting,” Sumner-Gardner says. “Going
into my sophomore year, one of my coaches saw
me throw a football during a summer workout,
and he asked me to try out at safety.”
It took Summer-Gardner a year of training
at his new position before he came back as a
junior and earned the starting job at the varsity
level. He leaped to the top of his recruiting class
by proving to be one of the best safeties in the
state against the run.
“I like being the quarterback of the defense,
seeing everything and making the calls,” Sum-
ner-Gardner says. “I do a lot of film study. I know
what’s coming on the field.”
As a former lineman, Sumner-Gardner says
diagnosing running plays comes far easier than
reading passing plays. Still, he sees the way the
game is changing at the college level with more
spread offenses, and he realizes he will have to
improve in coverage.
“I’m an all-around player,” Sumner-Gardner
says. “Last year, I was really good against the run.
This year, I’m hoping to do better against the pass.
To be a top safety, I have to be able to cover like a
corner. I’m getting used to that right now.”
What’s intriguing for college recruiters is that
Sumner-Gardner only figures to improve moving
forward due to his limited experience at the po-
sition. His hard work has been the key, he says,
to becoming a top defensive player for a team
that has won three consecutive district titles.
“I want us to be the best defense in the
state,” Summer-Gardner says. “That’s what I’ve
been working for since my sophomore year, and
that’s why I was willing to change positions. If
I stayed at defensive end, I could have put on
weight and started later in high school. But I
moved to safety, ran track, did a lot of footwork
and press releases, and now our defense is
better off because of it.”
FOLLOW US ON TWIT TER @FNFMAGAZINE
FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL TEXAS 2013