Cards: Fleer 1990, ProSet 1989
Acquired: TTM 2020, C/o Home
Sent: 10/19 Received: 11/17 (29 days)
Freeman McNeil was one of these players that rarely, if ever signed. I had pencilled him in for a paid signing with a stiff fee last year, but forgot about the event. Then a new event was cancelled due to the pandemic. Fast forward to mid-September 2020, and I saw a response for him come across SCN, so I quickly popped these two cards in the mail. As the successes slowly trickled in, mine showed up after about 30 days of waiting. Considering that up to this year Freeman was a career 1 for 30 type of guy, I was pretty happy to add him to the collection on these beautiful cards.
Freeman’s career was already on the back nine when I became familiar with him as a kid through trading cards and Starting Lineup figurines. He was a solid back and very productive, but injuries derailed what could’ve been a hall of fame career. – And back in the 80s when you needed to have a knee or ankle procedure? Something like that could end your career. Freeman was the epitome of the walking wounded. When he was a rookie in 81 his season ended due to a sprained foot. In 1983, he landed badly and separated his shoulder and then in 84, he broke some ribs… 1986 saw Freeman dislocate his elbow… and in 87 he got lucky and just pulled his hammy very, very badly. It’d be in 1989, McNeil ripped his knee ligaments. All in all, over 12 seasons, Freeman only played 2 full 16 game slates.
Freeman played for the UCLA Bruins from 1977-1980. He had 1,396 yards rushing in 1979, and 1,105 yards in 1980. He’d be the second runningback selected in the 1981 NFL Draft, with the 3rd overall pick by the New York Jets. He ran for 623 yards his rookie year in 6 starts in his debut NFL season. In 1982, Freeman ran for 786 yards on 151 carries in 9 strike shortened games. His 786 yards and 5.2 yards per carry led the league. (It is notably the only time in NFL history that a Jets runningback has led the league in rushing.) He’d earn his first Pro Bowl and only All Pro nomination for that season.
The Jets were a team during that period that ran the ball heavily. Once Johnny Hector was brought on board, the offense was referred to as a ‘two headed monster’. In 1984 Freeman broke the 1,000 yard barrier for the first time, rushing for 1,070 on 229 carries. Then in 1985, McNeil rushed for a career high 1,331 yards on 294 carries. – Again, all the more impressive as he and Hector were splitting time in the backfield.
Although Freeman didn’t break the 1,000 yard barrier again throughout the remainder of his career, he managed to put together campaigns in 1986 (856 yards) and 1988 (944 yards) that put him close enough. By 1990, Freeman began passing the torch to the next man up, which by that point was Blair Thomas and Brad Baxter. McNeil retired after the 1992 season as the franchise’s all time leading rusher with 8,074 yards, (since surpassed by Curtis Martin).
He has been inducted into the Jets Ring of Honor and the Nassau County (NY) Hall of Fame.