His senior football season is still months away, and yet Royce Freeman is already being honored.
The Imperial High running back received a letter Friday morning that was given to his coach, Kerry Legarra, inviting Freeman to participate in next year’s Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.
“My coach told me about it and I read the letter and it’s just amazing how hard work pays off,” Freeman said. “It just made me want to go out there and play hard.”
Sponsored, of course, by the United States Marine Corps, the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl featured just 100 high school football players from throughout the country each of the last two years.
“In addition to being among the top-rated football players in the nation, the selection process is also dedicated to choosing players based on their character, academic performance and leadership,” a statement from the Semper Fidelis website said.
“I think it is totally well-deserving,” Legarra said. “It absolutely proves that a young man with class, character and dignity, who works hard, will get what he deserves.
“Because that’s what Royce is,” he said. “He’s a heck of a young man, who excels in the classroom as well as on the field.”
The invitation came on the heels of a pair of months that saw the junior rocket from the depths of relative obscurity into one of the top running back names bouncing around college scouts’ minds.
Freeman is now listed as the 14th-ranked running back in the nation by ESPN, which also lists the colleges that have made official offers to him.
Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Colorado State, Florida, Florida State, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Oregon State, San Diego State, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Washington, Washington State, and Wisconsin have all made offers, according to the site and to Freeman.
“It gives the other players more incentive because of all those recruiters coming down here,” Legarra said. “I think it’s pushing all of them to try hard to go to the next level, and I think maybe another diamond in the rough will get found down here in the Valley.”
Freeman agrees, hoping that many of his teammates get college offers once their senior season begins.
“I think (center) Evan Pumphrey is going to start kicking off soon; colleges are already looking at him,” he said. “(wide receiver) Dajon (Staton), as well as (quarterback) Chris (Carter), will start getting looks this year.”
Despite being mostly soft-spoken, Freeman is trying to exert leadership as the new captain of the Tigers football squad, a fact the Semper Fidelis crew did not miss.
“I’m just trying to lead by example, but being a leader means you also have to get in other people’s faces and tell them what the team needs from them, as well as evaluating them,” he said.
This year’s Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl was held Jan. 4 at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
It remains to be seen where and when the 2014 game will be held, but rest be assured Freeman will be ready.
“It’s at the end of the season so it’s kind of different,” he said. “It’s something I probably have to prepare for.
“It makes me want to excel at my game because of the competition I’m going against,” Freeman said.