Jon Cooper | The Good Word
This week, "The Good Word" features five Georgia Tech student-athletes that will be among those that "Get Out" on Saturday when the Institute holds its fall commencement ceremonies.
Want to know the value of getting a college degree?
Ask KeShun Freeman.
Freeman, a business administration major who will receive his diploma on Saturday during Georgia Tech's fall commencement ceremonies, has learned all about the value of his Tech degree, primarily because of what it's meant to those closest to him.
"Not too many people in my family have graduated from college, on either my mom or my dad's side," he said. "It really means a lot to me, to my family. I'm my grandmother's first grandson to graduate from college so she's very excited about that. I had a cousin, she just graduated from Georgia State in May and now me, her oldest grandson.
"My mom took 11 years before she could finish college [because she was] taking care of me and my siblings. [Youngest brother] Landon, when he was little, was really sick. So she graduated about two years ago. To follow in her footsteps is really important to me. I came to college with the intention to stay strong and finish and, now that it's here, I'm very excited."
Doing things for others has been a theme for Freeman. Over the last four years, teammates, fellow students and pretty much anyone in need could find a sympathetic ear and a helping hand in Freeman.
"His character is unbelievable. I don't know how he hasn't spread himself too thin," said Georgia Tech defensive tackle Desmond Branch. "He does anything and everything and he does it with all of his heart. He has one of the biggest hearts I've ever met in my life and he's one of the best guys I've ever met in my life."
Freeman certainly got the best out of his years at Georgia Tech, on and off the field.
In 50 career games as a four-year starter at left defensive end, he finished with 159 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
Freeman was just as dedicated off the field, including serving on Georgia Tech's Student-Athlete Advisory Board, the last year-and-a-half as vice president. He pointed to SAAB as an important vehicle to getting involved.
"Off the field, I was part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board, so I had a huge part in athletics. I also took the time to reach out and meet different organizations and people and different fraternities and sororities around campus," he said. "Once I started outreaching to the entire student body, I got to see that we were able to help each other out. Sometimes I missed class and I had friends who were in those classes and they asked, `I took notes for you. Would you like to see them?' Just the friendships that I made at Georgia Tech let me know that my network has already started. I'm excited to see where these students go and how we can help each other out in the future."
Helping out has always been important to the LaGrange native, who recalled a rather off-beat assist he received his first day on campus.
"That first morning, Matthew Jordan and Tre' Jackson and I came in. The administration people had told us to meet them at the stadium at like 7:30 in the morning," he recalled. "So we woke up at like 6 a.m. so we could make it. We didn't have the right Buzz Card and we were stuck outside of the parking deck and we had to wait for them to come let us in.
"In that moment, my first night and then my first morning, I realized how fast thing were going to move. I realized I had to really be able to adjust," he added. "One of the biggest things that I did was use my resources. I really reached out to other people as resources. I talked to my advisors, I talked to my friends and talked to some of the older people that were on campus."
In his four years on the field, Freeman helped create a lot of memories that had people around campus talking. There was winning the Orange Bowl over No. 8 Mississippi State as a freshman, twice knocking off Georgia in Athens and taking out No. 9 Florida State at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Oct. 24, 2015, courtesy of "The Miracle on Techwood Drive."
Upending the Seminoles really stood out.
"I'll never forget the Florida State game. There was so much energy," he said. "I remember helping my mom and my little brother (Landon) jump over the walls to come on the field and I remember my little brother, we looked at each other and gave each other a high-five. He gave me a big hug and said, `I knew you could do it!' I'm expecting that same enthusiasm from him this weekend after I get the degree. That was my favorite on-field part. I loved going down Yellow Jacket Alley. That was my time to interact with the fans."
That his biggest win is tied to how it affected others is pure KeShun.
It's why a guy who was named honorable mention all-ACC as a freshman, was more honored by an award he never won -- the Danny Wuerffel Trophy, awarded to "the player who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement." In 2017, Freeman was nominated for the award for the third time.
"Each time I was very thankful," he said. "It's really cool that people actually recognize the things that I try to do but, of course, I don't do it for recognition. I do it from my heart. I realize there are a lot of children and people that are in hospitals or in places that really need a smile. If I'm able to go on the football field and I'm able to help them get the smile, that enjoyment, that's what I'm going to do. Then, when I have the time, I try to go and volunteer.
"The fact that people are watching me and putting me up for awards like (The Wuerffel Trophy) really makes me smile because it's raising awareness," he added. "Every time someone sees, `KeShun Freeman got nominated for this. Why?' then they'll see, that's my purpose for doing things. Hopefully it's contagious. That's the best part about it."
Freeman has done his part to make that feeling contagious in the locker room among his peers.
"He inspires everybody," Branch said. "What he does makes you want to do that. You just want to be that guy like him."
Freeman will graduate from Georgia Tech but he will never truly leave it. The Institute has simply meant too much to him. He feels fulfilled in what he's learned from the Total Person Program and obliged to continue setting an example.
"It's a big thing. I look at people like Homer Rice, I look at our athletics director, Todd Stansbury, all of these great people that represent what a Total Person is," he said. "They have pretty much the full package. They played ball, were able to have successful careers. I knew I wanted to show not only the students here, not only the fans here, but people everywhere, this is a student who is also an athlete. Sometimes I had to turn on the student part, sometimes I had to turn on the athlete part. Then there's an outreach part. I realized that those are different factors that came into being the Total Person.
"I thought about some things that I probably lacked my freshman year and tried to make sure that I fulfilled them as I got older so that the freshmen could have resources and a better time adjusting to things than I did at times," he added. "That was a big part of why I carried myself the way I did. Being on the Student-Athlete Advisory Board has been really cool -- to take on that responsibility, to meet so many different people, to hear so many different stories"
Freeman is excited to share stories with his family following the graduation ceremony, at which his parents and all four siblings will be in attendance.
"It's going to be good to be around them and just to hear their stories about me and reflect on my time at Georgia Tech," he said. "I'm very thankful that God allowed me to come to this school, near my family and my hometown. Now, as I'm leaving, I can represent Georgia Tech in the different places that I go."