MIAMI (CBSMiami) – On the night the Florida State Seminoles won the national title in Pasadena, running back Devonta Freeman had a message for the Miami folks back home.
“It’s a way out, man. You just gotta continue to believe and continue to fight and there is a way out, man. I’m from where you’re from,” said Freeman.
Freeman grew up in the Pork n’ Beans projects in Liberty City. He’s the oldest of seven kids.
“That’s a place only the strong survive,” said Freeman.
Freeman survived by immersing himself in sports. He spent many an afternoon at nearby Moore Park where he caught the eye of Luther Campbell. The rapper from Miami became Freeman’s mentor, and gave him this fatherly advice.
“Whenever you want something, always ask a man for some work instead of coming at him saying ‘Can you give me something?’ Like basically a handout,” Freeman said. “He was like, ‘you don’t want no handout in life.’”
Freeman took that to heart. He worked three weekend jobs as a 13-year-old to help support his siblings.
“I feel like it developed a young man with character, teaching him that anything is out there, you just got to go and get it,” said Freeman.
Freeman blossomed into a high school star at Miami Central, leading his team to a state title. He went on to Florida State after being overlooked by other schools, including the University of Miami.
Now, Freeman is on the verge of reaching his NFL dream, but stays connected to his community, looking to inspire kids from where he came from to climb as he has.
“I came up from the bottom with no hope. The oldest of seven brothers and sisters. My auntie staying with us, my grandma staying with us. We are all in one house and I didn’t make it yet but I came this far,” said Freeman.
Freeman is projected as a third round draft pick, but aims to beat those odds with a blazing 40 yard dash in the upcoming NFL combine. It’s yet another hurdle for a guy who has spent a lifetime jumping over them.
“I feel like everybody that’s chasing something should wake up with a goal every day, every single day they wake up and one of my goals right now that I’m focused on is running a 4-3 or 4-4 and I wake up saying 4-3, 4-3, 4-3…” said Freeman.