The New York Times: Coach From ‘Blind Side’ Thrives in College Game

October 27th, 2011

The New York Times
October 27, 2011

JONESBORO, Ark. — When the best-selling book “The Blind Side” was released in 2006, Hugh Freeze knew he would have a prominent role.

Freeze was the high school football coach of Michael Oher, whom the book was centered on, and the two had grown close during Oher’s career at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis. Still, taking time to read the book was not in Freeze’s plans. Instead, his wife, Jill, highlighted all the parts where he was mentioned, creating an abridged version of sorts that he could flip through.

“It’s my personality that I can’t sit and listen to anyone for more than 30 minutes, except for my pastor,” Freeze said in an interview this week.

True to the coach’s frenetic style, it has not taken long for Freeze to make his mark at Arkansas State. In his first full season as a head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Freeze has the Red Wolves (5-2) on the cusp of becoming eligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2008 if they beat North Texas at home Saturday. A win would improve their record to 6-2 for the first time since 1986.

Freeze’s team has taken on his temperament. Arkansas State runs a hurry-up spread offense influenced by those at Oregon, Auburn and Oklahoma. He put in the system when he was hired as offensive coordinator least season; Arkansas State promptly set nine offensive records and averaged 30 points a game.

The sudden success did not surprise those who saw Freeze lead Briarcrest to six state title games in his 13 years as coach.

“Whenever he got the chance to call plays or to draw up a play, it would always work,” Oher, now a left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, said in a telephone interview. “We and everybody else would always wonder, ‘Why isn’t Coach Freeze calling more plays or drawing up more stuff?’ ”

Oher and Freeze remain close, regularly exchanging text messages. After Oher was selected by the Ravens in the first round of the draft in 2009, he helped Freeze realize a lifelong dream by flying him out to see a Monday night game between Baltimore and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

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