It’s good to see not all young players allow fame and fortune to go to their heads. As with the case of Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback Josh Freeman, who was a first round selection last season and rewarded with millions in guaranteed money. Freeman, however has still managed to remain humble and well grounded even after winning what amounts to be the lottery.
But what’s even more impressive is that looking back over the last decade of first round picks who finally started earning pay for play. Many have developed what’s become known as the “fat cat syndrome” where they inevitably lose sight of what they have worked so hard to achieve, that the money causes them to stop striving and working to get better.
Josh Freeman got it up front last year when the Bucs made him their top draft pick. His five-year, $36 million contract included a signing bonus of more than $10 million.
Fortunately for the Bucs, Freeman’s dedication and work ethic are unquestioned. But they invested a lot of money in him before knowing whether he could really play in this league. All teams do the same thing, and that’s just goofy.
This could be the last year you see these kinds of rookie numbers, at least for a while. A rookie wage scale is sure to be on the collective bargaining table after this season as owners and the players union work toward a new operating agreement. It will pass easily.
Until then, though, it’s a delicate subject.
“It’s not something I really thought about. When I came in, I had one focus – being the quarterback of this team, getting on the field and winning games,” Freeman said.
“I’d be exactly the same if I was a seventh-rounder or a first-rounder. I want to go out and play the best football I can play and maximize my opportunities as a Buccaneer.”
The fact that Freeman has worked tirelessly this off season, in the hopes of improving his overall game is a credit to his upbringing and the people he surrounds himself with. More importantly it’s a sign of maturity beyond his years. Most 21-year olds don’t possess, comprehend, nor have the desire to be totally committed to any one thing. But the value and emphasis that Freeman places on work ethic should be commended and not taken for granted. As far too often, many of the players who get drafted lack the desired work ethic that’s expected of them.