Belton, Texas –Two former University of Mary Hardin-Baylor student athletes are currently making an impact in the National Football League (NFL). Jerrell Freeman and Nate Menkin are the first UMHB Crusaders to play in the NFL and are raising the visibility of the university and its football program to new heights.
Freeman played four seasons with the Cru from 2004-2007. During that time, he was the team’s leading tackler. He was voted D3football.com’s Defensive Player of the Year and was named the American Southwest Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.
In 2008, Freeman was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans. While he was released prior to the start of the season, this signing made him the first UMHB Crusader to ever be offered an NFL contract.
After the Titans, Freeman spent three seasons playing in the Canadian Football League (CFL) with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He quickly gained prominence with the Roughriders, recording 25 tackles as a member of the special teams unit and being nominated as the team’s Most Outstanding Rookie in his first season. By his third season, Freeman was leading the league with 105 tackles.
In January Freeman signed a contract with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. An injury to teammate Pat Angerer meant that he would start in the team’s opening game against the Chicago Bears. In the first five minutes of the game, Freeman intercepted a pass from Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and ran four yards untouched into the end zone. He instantly became not only the first Crusader but also the first ASC player to ever score a touchdown in the NFL. In the team’s second week, Freeman once again made his presence known, recording 13 tackles, 6 of them unassisted. He also forced a fumble that was recovered by the Colts.
Nate Menkin was a star on both sides of the football for Lago Vista High School, but his passion was for defense. It was not until UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg asked him to focus on protecting the passer that Menkin made his move to the offensive line. It was there that he thrived, earning the American Football Coaches Association’s All-American honors as a senior. He was also named the ASC’s Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2011.
It was Fredenburg who took Menkin to the NFL pro day held at Baylor, where a number of scouts were interested in watching Robert Griffin III. Menkin made the most of the opportunity and impressed the Houston Texans enough that he was signed as a free agent immediately following the draft. He appeared in each of four preseason games before becoming one of the team’s final cuts. The Philadelphia Eagles wasted no time in signing him as a reserve just one day after his release from the Texans. Menkin could serve as either a guard or tackle on the Eagles offensive line.