It didn’t take long for word to spread about Devonta Freeman. Moments after he was drafted, he was on a conference call with media in Atlanta, sharing his enthusiasm with every answer. Behind the power of social media, Falcons fans quickly learned that Freeman’s work ethic could be unmatched. We also learned that Freeman has a close relationship with recording artist Luther Campbell, known as “Uncle Luke” to most in the Miami area, and known as Luke Skywalker of 2 Live Crew, an early 90’s rap group, to everyone else.
So naturally, we wanted to get some thoughts on Freeman from someone who may know him as well as anyone. We called down to Miami and spoke with Campbell, who was with Freeman at a draft gathering when the Falcons picked him with their first fourth-round pick.
Needless to say, Campbell, who has mentored Freeman since he was 9, was ecstatic and as the running back’s name was called, Campbell could only think about the young boy that worked his tail off to be somebody.
“It was like a flashback and I started thinking about everything this kid has gone through,” Campbell said. “I thought about going to get his insurance papers signed by his mom, taking him home every night, teaching him that he had to lead by example because he had brothers and sisters looking up to him. It’s a job well done for a kid like him. Things like this happen to good people and he’s a very good young man. A very good young man.”
Campbell’s mentoring and football program in the Miami area has produced 20 NFL players, many of them are still playing, some at a very high level like Tampa’s linebacker Lavonte David, so Campbell is well-qualified to tell if a kid has what it takes to make it to the NFL.
At many of his stops along the way, Freeman has rarely been the unquestioned starter, but he’s always managed to rise to the top of the depth chart and Campbell thinks his time in the NFL will be no different. Freeman joins a crowded running back group in Atlanta, but Campbell told Freeman that this situation is just like all those others: work hard and you’ll earn your playing time.
So what does the former front man of 2 Live Crew think of Freeman’s chances in the NFL? Before he told me his opinion of Freeman the NFL player, he rewound to the beginning of Freeman’s college career and a phone call from a coach.
“He’s always been a leader,” Campbell said. “He’s never been a follower. His work ethic is phenomenal. I remember the first day he went to Florida State, (FSU head coach) Jimbo Fisher called me up and was like ‘What did you send me here? This kid is a machine. He works harder than the guys out here now.’ When he checks in, trust me, Atlanta got the steal of the draft.”
By adding Freeman to the Falcons’ roster, the celebrity Falcons fan list has officially grown by one. Campbell, who said he’s been a Dallas Cowboys fan his whole life, is now joining Freeman in the red and black.
“When he went to Florida State, I told him I’d root for him and not them,” Campbell said. “Now that he’s a Falcon, I’ve got to dump the Cowboys.”