By Tim Gayle
Despite all the preparation and practice that leads up to a football season, there are times when a coach can be surprised by what he sees in a football game.
That was the case with Autauga Academy coach Bobby Carr, who had to find a replacement for starting quarterback Tae Palmer against Pensacola Catholic and turned to his backup, Ty Freeman.
Freeman threw three interceptions in the loss, but Carr saw something more when he looked closer at the raw talent. On a field where Catholic had more than a few college prospects, Freeman ran for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns and threw for 92 yards and another score, looking at ease in a pressure-packed situation.
“He is definitely a Friday night player,” Carr said. “His game goes to the next level. There are a lot of good things he can do. But those great players, they show up every single day and not just on Friday.”
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound seniors runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, combining size and speed in a package that could line up at a lot of different positions. In 2018, at Selma High, he was the starting quarterback at times, a wide receiver at other times. But he was looking for something else when he visited Autauga Academy last spring.
“I liked the coaches they’ve got and a winning team,” Freeman said. “I could better my opportunity, besides football, at the school.”
On the football field, Carr put him at cornerback. If Freeman wanted to play another position, he never said anything to his coach.
“Quarterback isn’t what I wanted to play at the collegiate level,” Freeman said. “I wanted to play receiver or corner, so Coach Carr made it work. At first, I wanted to play (more at) receiver but when I started playing corner, it started getting fun. I kind of liked it more.”
The problem at Autauga is it’s hard to rack up impressive stats when you usually don’t play much more than a half. He has 24 tackles and an interception as a cornerback for the Generals, but a different dimension of Freeman was unveiled when he moved to quarterback the last two games.
“It wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do,” he said. “I’ve been there before, I’ve done it. I loosened up and let the game come to me.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Freeman often draws the opposing team’s best receiver and can use his speed to be a lockdown corner.
“He’s got great ball skills, he’s physical, he’s got good speed, he can cover,” Carr said.
Freeman is content to showcase his ability on the defensive side of the ball.
“I just do my job, help the team where I can,” he said. “It’s good, we’re winning, I don’t care where I play. I just want to contribute to the team.”
The problem is, those Friday night highlights have shown Carr and the offensive assistants another side of Freeman that can create plenty of headaches for opponents.
“When Palmer went down, we only had a few packages for (Freeman),” Carr said. “It was kind of like having Dylan Ingram and Sam Coleman when I used both of those guys at Edgewood. We already had Ingram’s package in, I had to go dig up Sam Coleman’s package. They can both bring something to the table that the other can’t.
“Ty is probably one of the fastest, if not the fastest, guy on our team so his strength is his legs.”
Tonight, in a battle for the AISA Class AA Region 1 championship, Autauga has a new offensive weapon to highlight in its game with Edgewood Academy, a few more zone-read options created for the quarterback to run.
“I ran it in Selma and it was easy, so I knew I could do it,” Freeman said. “It’s fun. I know I can use my legs.”