Thank goodness quarterback Josh Freeman is on Roy Miller’s side this time.
Miller, an All-Big 12 defensive tackle at the University of Texas, wound up hating the Bucs’ 2009 first-round pick in college as Freeman’s unranked Kansas State Wildcats upset the Longhorns’ hopes for an undefeated season in 2006 and 2007.
Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?
“We remember him,” Miller said. “Me and Brian Orakpo joke about it all the time. We really got a thing against that guy.”
Freeman’s coming out party as a true freshman in 2006 came at the expense of Miller and the No. 4-ranked Longhorns in a nationally televised game on ABC on November 11 in Manhattan, Kan. With Bucs head coach Raheem Morris as K-State’s defensive coordinator at the time, and Freeman throwing a career-high three touchdown passes and rushing for another, the Wildcats pulled off a 45-42 upset.
Freman completed 19-of-31 passes for 269 yards against a Longhorns defense that featured the likes of Miller, Orakpo, defensive tackle Frank Okam and defensive backs Aaron Ross and Michael Griffin – all of whom are now NFL players. Miller, who was drafted by Tampa Bay in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft, was held to three tackles against K-State that night, but said that he played one of his best games against Freeman.
“He’s big and he can take a hit,” Miller said. “My sophomore year I might have had my best game against him. I must have hit him four times. I remember one time I batted a ball down, but every other time he would throw it and it would be perfect and it would be a touchdown. There’s really not a better quarterback I would (play with). I have a lot of respect for him.”
Freeman weathered plenty of hits from Texas’ talented defensive line that night, but was only sacked once – an 11-yard loss from defensive end Robert Killabrew.
While the Longhorns’ 2007 loss to the Wildcats at Darrell Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium was even more stunning as Kansas State whipped No. 7-ranked Texas, 41-21, a game in which Freeman was 22-of-38 for 177 yards with one touchdown, Miller said that the defeat in ’06 was far worse.
“We had a shot,” Miller said of going undefeated in 2006. “That was our goal that year – to go back and win a national championship without Vince (Young). We had some great players and went up to Kansas State and lost that year. It was a crazy game, but (Freeman) had the best game. He was throwing that ball and we couldn’t do anything about it. I guarantee you I hit him four times and every time I hit him it was a touchdown. It was a touchdown when I hit him. The guy is so big, you could hit him in the stomach, but it’s going to take a couple of seconds before he hits the ground. I think he’s a great player.”
And one that Miller is happy is happy to call a teammate, although the Big 12 competitiveness shined through as Freeman was addressing a large media huddle after Friday’s rookie mini-camp practice at One Buccaneer Place. Miller couldn’t help himself by screaming, “Texas!” to help disrupt Freeman’s train of thought. But just like on the Big 12 battlefield, not even that could take Freeman down.
Miller forecasted that it would not be long before Freeman winds up as the Buccaneers’ starting quarterback.
“They drafted him in the first round, so they think pretty highly of him,” Miller said. “They want to see something out of him.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org