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Originally published Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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UW's unheralded freshman David Freeman busts out of the pack

Washington running back David Freeman, just three games into his college career, is scheduled to get his first start for the Huskies against No. 3-ranked Oklahoma.

Seattle Times staff reporter

David Freeman had a simple reason for accepting a scholarship offer from the Washington Huskies — it was the first one he received.

"Honestly, I didn't think I was ever going to get a scholarship offer, so I told myself the first one I get, I'm taking it," said Freeman, a freshman running back. "It just so happened to be a school I wanted to go to with a great coach and a great supporting cast."

And Saturday, just three games into his college career, he is scheduled to get his first start for the Huskies against No. 3-ranked Oklahoma.

On the surface, it seems like heady stuff for a player who might have been the least-heralded of the 26 who signed with UW last February in the highest-rated recruiting class of the four Tyrone Willingham has assembled at Washington. Freeman was the only player in the class not given a national rating at his position by Scout.com, receiving two stars out of five overall.

But Freeman says he is "excited more than nervous" at the prospect of facing the Sooners.

"Excited to show the crowd what I can do because I already know," he said. "I was already underrated coming in so just trying to show everybody else what I can do."

Indeed, it wasn't that Freeman thought he wasn't good enough to get a scholarship that made him leap at UW's offer — he committed in June 2007, about eight months before signing day.

Rather, his school, Inglewood (Calif.) High wasn't well-known for producing Division I football players and his coaches there told him that if colleges showed interest, he shouldn't hesitate.

"It's not a football school, and I don't know that it ever will be," said Inglewood coach Charles Mincy, who lettered at cornerback for UW in 1989-90 and is entering his fourth year at the school. The team went 5-5 last season. "We've tried, but we've had so much resistance. We don't have the experience of it being a football school. We have a lot of good athletes coming out of there, and a lot of them are getting overlooked."

Freeman said he thinks he might have been another one had he not been seen by then-UW assistant coach Eric Yarber in 2006 when Yarber was looking at another player on the team, a tight end named Cameron Graham.

"David got 1,600 yards his junior year and we didn't have an [offensive] line to do anything with," Mincy said.

Yarber told his fellow Huskies coaches about Freeman, and when Yarber left for Arizona State after the 2006 season, UW running backs coach Trent Miles kept Freeman on the list.

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"I think they saw I had the talent and nice footwork," Freeman said. "Just the different things you need to be a good running back. Instead of looking at the ratings, they saw this guy had the potential to be a nice running back."

They also saw what Mincy calls "a smart kid and a good student" from a solid family — his father works as a warehouse manager for Habitat for Humanity. Freeman said his only other recruiting visit was to Washington State, though he said that was more to reinforce he had made the right decision in committing to UW early.

So while Freeman wasn't the focus of attention when UW opened camp last month — most of that fell on Chris Polk, rated by some as the No. 1 running back in California last year — he immediately forced himself onto the map.

"I was surprised when I saw him out there," said senior cornerback Mesphin Forrester. "I said, 'This kid is really hitting the holes,' and I hadn't been seeing that, so that felt real good, especially a freshman doing that. That kid is going to be really good."

Freeman was behind Polk, sophomore Brandon Johnson and redshirt freshman Willie Griffin and didn't play at Oregon. But last week, Johnson sat out with a calf injury and Polk suffered a dislocated shoulder in the second quarter.

On his first play, the 5-foot-7, 190-pound Freeman caught a pass for 8 yards, and finished with two receptions for 11 yards and six carries for 30 yards.

Said UW coach Tyrone Willingham, "His knack for seeing things just a little different than another back sees them, and hitting the seam, showed what we have been thinking about him all along."

Even if they might have been the only ones.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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