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Tom Freeman

Assistant Coach —  1976-99


The road to Bettendorf went through Pennsylvania and Indiana for former Bettendorf offensive coordinator Tom Freeman.  For boys born in Western Pennsylvania, athletics has long been something beyond passion and bordering on obsession. Coach Freeman said, “We played football six months and baseball the other six months.  We played at recess, during the lunch hour, and after school.  We played all day on Saturdays and most of the day on Sundays. Our fathers took us to high school games and almost every boy wanted to be a football player.”  In 1952, as a sixth grader, Coach Freeman played for the Blairsville Bobcats junior high team and has been playing or coaching ever since..          

In eighth grade, his family relocated to Northwest Indiana.  In the shadows of the mighty steel industry, Coach Freeman learned the craft upon which he would build his life.  He played football, basketball, and baseball for Dyer Central High School (later renamed Lake Central High School).  It was during this time that he began thinking about becoming a teacher and coach.  Recruited in baseball and football, he chose to attend Wabash College in central Indiana to pursue degrees in history and psychology, playing both football and baseball.       

Upon graduation in 1963, Coach Freeman returned to his hometown and began his teaching and coaching career.  He also found time to get his Masters degree in guidance and counseling from Indiana University.  Prior to Bettendorf, he coached six years as an assistant at Lake Central High School, followed by five years as a guidance counselor and head coach at River Forest High School (Hobart Township, IN).        

One thing about coaches is that they form tremendous bonds… bonds of friendship and bonds of rivalry that last a lifetime.  One such relationship exists with Jerry Grafton. Coaching together at Lake Central, Jerry moved to Davenport, Iowa.  It was through Jerry that Coach Freeman became acquainted with Iowa and Merv Habenicht.  Originally seeking a coaching position at junior college in Iowa, Coach Freeman instead chose to continue in the high school ranks, accepting the position of offensive coordinator at Bettendorf in 1974.

The road had now led to Bettendorf… and through Bettendorf, Coach Freeman would enjoy many blessings in football and beyond.   In addition to receiving the Iowa Assistant Football Coach Award, he represented Bettendorf football at several football clinics over the years.  He was also honored to receive the Golden Apple award for teaching excellence in Scott County.   By 1978, early signs of the dynasty were evident when the Bulldogs knocked off a powerful Davenport Central team led by running back Roger Craig.  In 1980, the great run on the Dome began.  Coach Freeman enjoyed fifteen playoff appearances and five state championships.  He has coached many fine football players… and many fine young men.

But football was not his only athletic passion.  He was privileged to be an assistant basketball coach for three teams that played in the state tournament in Des Moines and an assistant baseball coach for the first Bettendorf baseball team to qualify for the state tournament in Marshalltown.  Coach Freeman retired from teaching and coaching in 2000.  So what does a coach do when he retires?  He keeps coaching!  Coach Todd Sturdy of Saint Ambrose University asked Coach Freeman to join the Bees' staff.  At St. Ambrose, he has had the opportunity to coach in the NAIA National Playoffs on many occasions.

Friendships run long and deep among coaches.  On any given weekday, stop into Hardees, HyVee, or Panera’s for breakfast and you will find Coach Freeman and several other of the coaches of your childhood trading stories and showing pictures of their grandchildren.

So how does Coach Freeman sum it up?

“I’ve had the opportunity to spend most of my life playing and coaching a game that I’ve loved since childhood. I’ve had the opportunity to work with great kids and great coaches.  I have a wife who understood the significance of my vocation and who supported me and walked with me on this fantastic journey.  My two sons, both BHS graduates, have moved from Iowa, one an engineer in Atlanta, and the other a teacher and coach in south Florida… yet they continue to follow the Bulldogs with great zeal. And I have three super grandchildren to spoil.  With granddaughters Lily and Sarah cheering him on, my four year old grandson, Tommy, wearing his Bettendorf Bulldog football helmet runs back and forth in his backyard in Atlanta proclaiming ‘Twins left, Tailback at seven, on one’ and dreaming of playing for 'Coach Scott' of the Bettendorf Bulldogs.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  I have truly been blessed.” 

Written and submitted with the loving affection of his sons