OU’s Gavin Freeman writes his latest chapter in an unlikely story

OU’s Gavin Freeman writes his latest chapter in an unlikely story

If the genesis of the nickname “G-Freaky” is murky, the freakiness Gavin Freeman injected into Oklahoma’s season opener was anything but.

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

| Sep 2, 2023, 8:55pm CDT

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

Sep 2, 2023, 8:55pm CDT

NORMAN — The origins of the nickname are shrouded in mystery and vary depending on who you ask.

Marvin Mims, the former All-Big 12 wide receiver, is thought to have been the first to cast the moniker of “G-Freaky” upon Gavin Freeman. Drake Stoops says the name is tied equally to the things Freeman can do on the field and the “funny stuff” he says in the locker room. For his part, Freeman likes the nickname solely as a useful differentiator on a roster that also includes fellow Gavins Sawchuk and Marshall.

“That’s as much as I can say,” he explained.

If the genesis of the nickname is murky, the freakiness “G-Freaky” injected into Oklahoma’s season opener was anything but.
Scorching Arkansas State with an 82-yard punt return touchdown two and a half minutes into the game, and following with a 7-yard touchdown reception later in the first quarter, Freeman provided the early charge in the Sooners’ 73-0 victory Saturday afternoon.

And, with the pair of plays that produced some of the loudest roars at Owen Field on the day, the sophomore pass catcher authored another chapter in the unlikely story he’s writing in Norman.

“I love an underdog story,” coach Brent Venables said.

Of course, these weren’t Freeman’s first opening day fireworks. Three-hundred and 64 days before he torched the Red Wolves, Freeman took the first touch of his college career 46 yards to the end zone for the opening points against UTEP on Sept. 3, 2022.

But there remains a critical distinction between that occasion and Saturday’s opener.

Freeman was a walkon when he ran through UTEP’s defense last September and still was on Aug. 25 when Venables gathered his players at midfield at the end of a Sooners practice session and directed their attention to the south video board inside Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

That’s how Freeman found out he was going on scholarship for the 2023 season. His parents — his mother Dawn and father Jason, the tight end who played for the Sooners from 1995-98 — were there on FaceTime to see the whole thing.

Oklahoma’s Gavin Freeman arrives at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial on Saturday before the Sooners’ season-opener with Arkansas State. OU won, 73-0. (BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK)

“You want to talk about a legacy?” Venables said that afternoon. “You want to talk about a dream come true? You’re walking in the good ol’ days, right now. These are the good ol’ days for you.”

For Freeman, it was the culmination of the journey for the relatively unheralded prospect out of Heritage Hall High School who had his offer pulled from Texas Tech before landing in Norman without any guarantees.

“It was a moment to think about how far I’ve come since high school,” Freeman told Sellout Crowd following Saturday’s win. “I wasn’t the best. I wasn’t the highest recruited guy. Recruiting stars and stuff obviously don’t matter. But being able to play at the highest level and just keep playing it’s big.

“But mindset doesn’t change (being on scholarship). I always have the same mindset of playing to my ability. But it was pretty special for sure.”

That mindset was part of the formula that produced Freeman’s latest star moment early Saturday. Before he burned past Arkansas State’s punt team, Freeman explained that he stood on the sideline and visualized the moment first, playing it out in his mind.

Not even his wildest imagination might have dreamed up the 82-yard dash he would unleash when he actually settled under William Przystup’s punt and started to run.

“I just remember catching it,” he said. “And then I remember seeing the gaping hole because my guys were blocking their asses off. So I just hit it. I hit the outside and they made another massive hole on the sideline and I just hit it again.”

For Freeman, it was the dream start to his second season at OU, this one on scholarship. For Venables, Freeman’s Week 1 showing represented something greater.

The second-year coach has extolled often on the tenets of a “championship culture” since his return to OU in Dec. 2022. In the success story that is Freeman — the former walkon who parlayed early playing time last fall and now a scholarship into a career day Saturday afternoon — he’s got a shining example of what that looks like in the player they call “G-Freaky”.

“I think it creates a buy-in that you want,” Venables said. “…We push family and relationships and connection. I think foundationally that’s where everything starts. And so I love to see that.”

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Eli Lederman reports on the University of Oklahoma for Sellout Crowd. He began his professional career covering the University of Missouri with the Columbia Missourian and later worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before two years writing on the Sooners and Cowboys at the Tulsa World. Born and raised in Mamaroneck, New York, Lederman grew up a rabid consumer of the New York sports pages and an avid fan of the New York Mets. He entered sportswriting at 14 years old and later graduated from the University of Missouri. Away from the keyboard, he can usually be found exploring the Oklahoma City food scene or watching/playing fútbol (read: soccer). He can be reached at [email protected].

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