By ROY CUMMINGS
TAMPA - He was No. 1 on the Bucs' draft board and he'll probably be No. 1 in your game day program as well. As for being No. 1 in your hearts, well, Josh Freeman has a ways to go there.
Two days after his selection by the Bucs was roundly booed by a crowd of fans attending a draft-day watch party at Raymond James Stadium, the former Kansas State quarterback arrived in Tampa on Monday as perhaps the most vilified first-round draft pick in franchise history.
Angry fans calling into local sports talk radio shows and blogging on the Internet spent the day bashing Freeman and the Bucs' decision to trade up two spots in the first round to get him. But Freeman stood strong amid the storm of criticism, in part because he saw it coming.
"I anticipated it," Freeman said. "You know, being from Kansas State and not getting that much national exposure. The same thing happened to [Steelers quarterback] Ben Roethlisberger when he was drafted. Everyone was like, 'Roethlis-who?'
"We didn't have the national spotlight on us all the time and we didn't win as many games as the other guys, so I expected a little bit of this. But I hear the fans here are great and that they respond to winning. So, if I go out and do well, they'll have no complaints then."
It's interesting that Freeman compared himself to Roethlisberger, who has led the Steelers to two Super Bowl titles since being drafted 11th overall out of Miami of Ohio five years ago. A lot of NFL scouts have made the same comparisons.
Both Roethlisberger and Freeman have ideal NFL size and arm strength, the scouts say, and both have the ability to shed tacklers in the pocket, move around in space and make plays when everything around them is breaking down. Despite those traits, many still seem skeptical of Freeman.
His record at Kansas State is one reason. The Wildcats were 17-20 and had just one winning season during Freeman's three-year run as their starting quarterback.
His completion percentage is another. In three years as a starter, Freeman completed more than 60 percent of his passes just once, during his sophomore season.
Most quarterbacks who fail to complete more than 60 percent of their passes in their final year of college also fail to make it big in the NFL. Freeman completed 58.6 percent last season as a junior but seems unswayed.
"It's not about what people are saying, it's about the attitude you carry into the office every day and your willingness to work," he said. "A great example is Donovan McNabb last year.
"They were ready to bench him and then he comes back and wins six [of the next seven] games and takes them to the NFC Championship Game. So it's all about the attitude and listening to the right people."
So much is being said that Freeman can't help but hear some of it. He admits, though, a lot of the criticism leveled against him has made him laugh.
"I've heard a lot of things: 'Freeman's not accurate; Freeman is not a leader,'" he said. "There was one point in this process where somebody said I had character issues, that I'd been in trouble in school, and that's just not the case at all. I try to walk the straight and narrow as much as I can.
"But, obviously, I've heard all sorts of things. I really don't buy into it. I know who I am. And the people who need to know who I am know who I am. Let's go to work. As for the other stuff, a lot of it is stuff people couldn't possibly know."
One thing Freeman doesn't know is when exactly he'll take the reins of the Bucs offense and get a chance to truly prove his critics wrong. He says he'd love to start right away but also sees the benefits of waiting a year or more and learning from the sidelines.
"All I know is that I'm going to do everything in my power to make the Buccaneers a better Football team," Freeman said. "Whether that's through playing this year, not playing this year, or playing a couple of years down the road. Whatever it takes. Whatever helps this team win, I'm ready to do."
(CHART) MAKE-OR-BREAK BARRIER?
Between 1997 and 2004, 10 quarterbacks were drafted in the first round who did not complete at least 60 percent of their passes in their final year of college. Most have failed, for one reason or another, to earn elite status in the National Football League.
Year Quarterback College Comp. Percent NFL team
1997 Jim Druckenmiller Virginia Tech 54 percent 49ers
1998 Ryan Leaf Washington State 55 percent Chargers
1999 Akili Smith Oregon 58 percent Bengals
1999 Cade McNown UCLA 58 percent Bears
2001 Michael Vick Virginia Tech 54 percent Falcons
2002 Joey Harrington Oregon 59 percent Lions
2002 Patrick Ramsey Tulane 57 percent Redskins
2003 Kyle Boller California 53 percent Ravens
2003 Rex Grossman Florida 57 percent Bears
2004 J.P. Losman Tulane 59 percent Bills
Source: The National Football Post
What fans are saying ...
Here we go again, drink some more cool aide Buc fans. This guy will be a bust.
Posted by ( JDA )
Impress me Josh by hitting your target when he is open by 15 yards ... I won't say complete bust, but he is no franchise QB ...
Posted by ( FerrisBueller )
Good luck Josh and welcome to the scrutiny of the NFL and Tampa Bay area fans. Hold on to that clipboard and learn fast man ...
Posted by ( MISF )
Welcome to ten years of loserville, population TAMPA! LOL
Posted by ( Sparky23 )
? after all the bad publicity Freeman has received, I liked hearing him speak today. He sounds like a very nice young man, somewhat humble, who has been raised well and taught respect. He did not come across as arrogant or cocky, and that's good. I sure hope this pays off, but I really do like the kid after hearing him speak.
Posted by ( BucFandango )
PLAYOFF QUARTERBACK COMPARISON
Of the 12 starting quarterbacks on last season's NFL playoff teams, two were undrafted out of college and three had completion percentages below 60 percent during their final year in college. Below is a chronological list (based on final year in college) of those quarterbacks:
Player Drafted 2008 NFL team College Year Com. Pct. Yards
Kurt Warner undrafted Arizona Northern Iowa 1993 58.4 2,747
Kerry Collins No. 5 overall Tennessee Penn State 1994 66.7 2,679
Peyton Manning No. 1 overall Indianapolis Tennessee 1997 60.3 3,819
Jake Delhomme Undrafted Carolina Southwestern La. 1997 53.3 2,901
Donovan McNabb No. 2 overall Philadelphia Syracuse 1998 62.5 2,134
Chad Pennington No. 18 overall Miami Marshall 1999 67.4 4,006
Eli Manning No. 1 overall N.Y. Giants Mississippi 2003 60.8 3,600
Philip Rivers No. 4 overall San Diego N.C. State 2003 72.0 4,491
Ben Roethlisberger No. 11 overall Pittsburgh Miami (Ohio) 2003 69.1 4,486
Tarvaris Jackson 2nd round Minnesota Alabama State 2005 61.1 2,655
Joe Flacco No. 18 overall Baltimore Delaware 2007 63.5 4,263
Matt Ryan No. 3 overall Atlanta Boston College 2007 59.3 4,507
Note: The NFL team they played for in 2008 is not necessarily the team that drafted them out of college.
Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979.
Photo credit: News Channel 8 photo by BOB HANSEN
Photo: Josh Freeman on Monday said he expected the criticism to be harsh after the Bucs made the Kansas State quarterback their first-round pick. But he said winning games would change those skeptical fans.
Photo: Kansas State was 17-20 and had just one winning season during Josh Freeman's three-year run as its starting quarterback.
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