First and Goal with Paul Freedman
This week sophomore tight end Paul Freedman and the Virginia Cavaliers are traveling to Chestnut Hill to face ACC foe Boston College. The Belleair Beach, Fla., native recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to discuss UVa’s recent setback to Maryland, preparations for Saturday’s game at Boston College, seeing much more time on the field since Joe Torchia went down with injury and the overall transformation from high school football player to college football player.
Question: After suffering a disappointing loss to Maryland last Saturday, what was coach London’s message to the team after the game?
Freedman: Basically, he said if ‘you’re not buying into what we’re trying to do here then we’re moving on. We’re heading up, so we don’t want anyone on the team bringing us down.’ I think he wants us to realize that we still have a lot of things that we can achieve this year in building this program. No one’s showing signs of quitting, and I think we’ve all been fighting really hard. He’s just trying to keep that going.
Question: Has that been something coach London has stressed to the team all season?
Freedman: Yes, definitely. Winning as a first-class organization and doing everything right has been one of coach London’s main messages. It’s not just about on the field-it’s about doing this whole thing right. We’re not going to take any short cuts. Even though the process is a difficult one, we’re going to rebuild this program the right way.
Question: What can the team work on in practice this week to prepare for Boston College Saturday and continue that rebuilding process?
Freedman: We definitely have to be more disciplined and minimize the mistakes that result in penalties. We need to take care of the football offensively. I can’t really speak defensively, but I know they’re trying to fix whatever’s been going on over there. For the most part, it’s just about working on our penalties and moving our feet. We can’t allow ourselves to be caught in a bad position that causes us to hold because of our feet.
Question: Several key players on the team have suffered season-ending injuries-most recently Ras-I Dowling, who fractured his ankle against Maryland. Does it feel like the team has had bad luck in that regard?
Freedman: Injuries are just a part of football. I think we’ve actually had a pretty decent season. Coach Hourigan did a great job in the offseason, getting us ready to be healthy for the entire season. Every team’s going to go through injuries and have their own problems, but I think we’ve handled them well. When injuries come they can be tough to deal with, but we’ve been doing a good job adapting to them.
Question: Starting tight end Joe Torchia is another Cavalier whose season ended prematurely because of injury, prompting players like you and teammate Colter Phillips to have to step up and fill his place. What have you learned from that?
Freedman: When Joe went down, I learned a lot about Joe and I realized how great of a captain he really is. He’s really helped Colt and I out. He’s just doing a great job with all of the experience he has, just teaching us and giving us helpful tips about teams’ styles and the way their defensive coordinator likes to call the game. From that part, I’ve learned about Joe. He’s been a great leader to us.
Question: With Joe on the sidelines, you have gotten more playing time this year. What has this season been like for you?
Freedman: It’s been fun. The whole year, I’ve just been trying to prepare like I’m a starter. Ever since spring ball, when Joe was out [with an injury], Colt and I have been preparing with the starters. At the end of the summer, we were still preparing with the starters. Now that I’m getting more playing time, I feel that Coach Wachenheim did a great job of getting me ready. I’ve just been going with it, and it’s been a fun ride.
Question: You mentioned tight ends coach Scott Wachenheim, one of the many new faces on the team this season. What have you learned from the new coaching staff?
Freedman: Coach London has taught us how to do things right. Coach Wachenheim and Coach Lazor have helped my technique and its light-years from where it was before. Compared to spring ball, I think I’m a totally different player. Coach Wachenheim’s done a great job of not only teaching us the correct technique, but explaining to us why things are a certain way. He’s using great teaching skills to help us out.
Question: Is there anything specific Coach Wachenheim has emphasized with the tight ends that you feel has improved your game?
Freedman: Just our footwork-like why we take the steps we take and why we run the routes at a certain depth. The whole offense relies on everyone else doing exactly what they need to do, or else things don’t work out. He’s just emphasized why we do things and the way we do things.
Question: At 6-5, you are pretty tall for a tight end. From a technique standpoint, how do you accommodate for your height?
Freedman: When you’re in the trenches, the low man wins, so you try to keep a base and stay low. For Colt and I, it’s definitely more difficult for us to stay low than it is for someone like a Jeremiah Mathis, who is in the 6-3, 6-4-range. If you stay low and keep a base, you’ll have a lot of power. At the same time, it also gives you more leverage being tall though.
Question: What do you consider your biggest tool as a tight end?
Freedman: Probably my hands. I’m not the fastest or strongest tight end-I’m hoping to improve on that-but I feel like normally my hands are pretty solid. Coach Wachenheim really likes my hands.
Question: You are one of only five players on the team from Florida. What attracted you to Virginia coming out of high school?
Freedman: The education I would receive and also the way Virginia used the tight ends in the old offense. It’s really great that we’re getting back to that now. There’s just so many great linemen and tight ends that have come out of here-guys like Joe [Torchia], Heath Miller, Jonathan Stupar, Tom Santi-just all of them.
Question: Have you had a chance to meet any of those guys?
Freedman: I’ve met John Phillips, and obviously I’ve met Joe [Torchia]. I think I met Stupar. There’s been a lot of great tight ends here-even some that aren’t in the NFL-that I’m close with. We all kind of stick together and keep each other going.
Question: You are a sophomore now, but looking back, what was the hardest part of transitioning from high school to college?
Freedman: Just managing your time wisely with academics and football. Football takes a lot of hours of the day that people don’t see, whether it’s watching extra film or in the weight room.
Question: On that note, what is a typical day like for you?
Freedman: On a typical day, say Thursday, I have a 7 a.m. lift. It’s supposed to recover the starters for the game Saturday, so we do a little rolling out and work out in the morning. Then I have an 8:30 a.m. discussion for an hour and then class until 1:45. After that, I go to practice from 2:15 until seven. I’m basically busy from seven o’clock in the morning to seven o’clock at night.
Question: All that being said, what do you consider the best part of being a college football player?
Freedman: Just being around the team and being a part of the team. That’s something that eventually everyone’s going to lose-being an athlete and being a part of the team. You have that bond with them that you can’t have with anyone else really.
Question: Let’s finish up with some “quick hit” questions. Favorite place to eat in Charlottesville?
Question: What do you usually order?
Freedman: The Chris Long sub.
Question: Favorite vacation spot?
Freedman: I’d have to say St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Question: Favorite sports team?
Freedman: I’ll say the Yankees.
Question: Even though you are from Florida?
Freedman: Yeah, I was born in New York and still have family there.
Question: Favorite Thanksgiving dish?
Freedman: I really like my mom’s stuffing. And my grandma’s apple pie-that’s good, too.
Question: Best Christmas present you have ever received?
Freedman: I got one of those battery-powered Jeeps when I was like seven or eight years old.