Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney hopes 13, referring to his 13th NFL season, is his lucky number. However 2013 wasn’t so lucky as his season ended after a little more than three games due to a torn quad suffered in a late-September game against the Dallas Cowboys. Now healed, Freeney is looking to make a big splash in 2014, his second season with the Chargers.
Prior to joining the Chargers, Freeney spent his first 11 seasons in Indianapolis, helping the Colts to a Super Bowl title in 2006 (Super Bowl XLI). A Bloomfield, Conn. native, Freeney enjoyed an All-America career at Syracuse. As a senior he was named Big East co-Defensive Player of the Year after leading the nation with 17.5 sacks. A few months later, the Colts made him their first pick in the 2002 NFL Draft (11th overall). Freeney didn’t waste any time making his presence felt in the NFL. He earned All-Rookie honors in 2002 after setting a franchise record with 13 sacks, second all-time among rookies to the 14.5 recorded by Tennessee’s Jevon Kearse in 1999.
Besides seven Pro Bowl selections, Freeney was named All-Pro four times, he was selected to the NFL’s all-Decade Team for the 2000s in 2009 and the Kansas City Committee of 101 named him its Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. He racked up a Colts-record 107.5 sacks, becoming the 26th player in NFL history with more than 100 career sacks. Freeney and Robert Mathis combined to give the Colts a devastating one-two punch as they became the first defensive end tandem from the same team since 1970 to be named to three consecutive Pro Bowls (2008-10). While with the Colts, Freeney sacked 53 different quarterbacks and recorded sacks against 27 of the NFL’s 32 teams. At the end of 2012, his 107.5 sacks were fifth-most sacks among active players. Freeney became the only player in Colts history to post seven double-digit sack seasons, including a franchise-record and NFL-leading 16 in 2004 as he became the first player in team history to win the league’s sack title. He set a franchise record by recording at least one sack in nine-straight games over the 2008-09 seasons and owns the three-highest single-season sack marks in Colts history.
Including his Super Bowl appearance, Freeney has played and started 17 postseason games during his career.
As a high schooler, Freeney didn’t start with ambitions of becoming one of the NFL’s best players. His older brother, Hugh, played quarterback at Bloomfield, but Freeney started his athletic career as a goalie for the school’s soccer team. Both of Freeney’s parents, Hugh, Sr. and Joy, were Jamaican natives and that was the game he’d primarily been exposed to as a child. It was only after some good-natured ribbing from classmates about his soccer uniform that Freeney opted for a move to the gridiron as a sophomore. He ended up a four-sport star for the Warhawks, lettering in football, basketball, baseball and soccer. He led the football team to a state title in 1997 and even though football was the sport that ultimately led to a professional career, Freeney was an excellent center fielder and power hitter for the baseball team. He hit one of the longest home runs in school history, clearing a road that runs behind the school’s baseball field. In 2007, Freeney returned to Connecticut for Dwight Freeney Day, which included the retirement of the No. 44 uniform he wore as a prep.
Freeney’s success on the field catapulted him into an array of opportunities off the field, including the nonprofit world and the entertainment industry.
He oversees the Dwight Freeney Foundation, which has hosted a number of events. They include a football camp, a FanFest designed to thank Colts fans, as well as a program that provided Thanksgiving meals for needy families through Indianapolis’ Boys and Girls Clubs. Freeney also raised funds for charities in his home state of Connecticut through events that included a celebrity golf classic.
Freeney’s celebrity status has led to red carpet invitations for a wide variety of events from the ESPY’s to the Grammy Awards. In April, he was even invited to the White House to participate in the 2014 White House Easter Egg Roll. Freeney’s star quality has also taken him to events that range from album release parties to fundraisers for Pediatric AIDS. Freeney has been a frequent guest and contributor for numerous sports television shows, including ESPN’s “Rome is Burning”, The NFL Network’s “Total Access” and FOX Sports Net’s “Best Damn Sports Show Period.” Freeney also was featured on ESPN’s Monday Night Football Countdown’s “Unmasked,” in 2012 and he was a guest on the popular daytime talk show, “Dr. Phil.” His other screen credits include an appearance on Fox’s highest rated reality series, “Hell’s Kitchen,” and he starred in NBC’s hit Sunday Night Football commercial with Faith Hill. Freeney’s popularity also has led to appearances on the covers of Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News, while he was featured as Ebony’s hottest bachelor of 2008 and has been written about in People Magazine, Men’s Health and USA Today.
Freeney is of Jamaican heritage. He enjoys cooking, particularly Caribbean and Jamaican food. Freeney’s other hobbies include golf and bowling.