Hugh Freeze was recently singled out for being a favorite of mothers of college football players. So I decided to give Coach Freeze’s mom a call and see what she had to say about that. Besides, the best way to find out what someone is really like is to ask their mother! What follows are the highlights of a very pleasant visit with Rita Freeze.
Heaton: What story about his childhood do you like to tell?
Mrs. Freeze: Hugh did not want to disappoint his father and me. Once in the 1st grade, he got into a scuffle at school. The principal just happened to be walking by at the time and gave Hugh one lick with the paddle that administrators carried back then. That was the end of it from the school. However, over the next couple of days, I knew something was worrying Hugh. Finally, after three days he broke down and told me about the “incident”. He did not want to let his dad and I down.
Heaton: When did his interest in community service begin?
Mrs. Freeze: At Senatobia High School, Hugh was the ‘go-to’ person for the other kids. Hugh forms relationships wherever he goes and always tries to make time for folks. His lifelong interest in community service began in earnest at Northwest Junior College with a group called “Living Waters,” where Hugh was the pitch speaker.
Hugh Freeze has honed his speaking skills to a fine edge. A consistent theme is: expect adversity.
“You know, if you’re really going to be a person of faith that I say I am — that doesn’t mean I’m perfect; that’s why I need it. You hold on to it like James 1:2, ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.’ You consider it all joy when you encounter these trials and tribulations… if you have rocky times that cause you to lose all of the joy that comes with working with the relationships within your building and on your team, man, you’re going be like a roller coaster.” – Hugh Freeze.
Like many family members of people in the spotlight, Mrs. Freeze does not follow Hugh in the media.
Mrs. Freeze: “I don’t read stories about Hugh. He advises me not to and I think he is right. Often I can’t bear to watch from the stands. When I’m at a game, my eyes are closed tight until a friend nudges me to let me know it’s all right to look!”
Heaton: Why do you think mothers love Hugh?
Mrs. Freeze: Hugh is real. He shows respect. He treats everyone the same. He is what he says he is and strives to do the right thing always. Hugh was saved at an early age and is not ashamed of his faith. He has always trusted the lord that things would work out. Bible study is important, prayer is important. Mothers want to know their sons are being taken care of. He’s a parent to his players while they’re on campus and after graduation. Hugh’s faith guides him, and he’s a role model for the boys. He wins their respect. Mothers love him because after playing for him, their sons are ready to make their way in the world.
Recently on ESPN, Coach Freeze discussed one of his players, but he could have been talking about one of any of our children.
“You can’t do anything about changing the beginning, but you can control how it ends. And I fully believe that he is a good kid. He’s obviously made mistakes but we’re not going to stop helping mold him, and look forward to the day where everything with that (incident) is at a conclusion,” Freeze said.
Coach’s faith inspires me, and I encourage you to follow him on Twitter. Most every morning he shares a good word. As I wrote this article, I analyzed many of his Tweets. Guess what word Coach Freeze tweets most often. “Love.”
“We are going to play for the love of each other. Not hatred of somebody else,” Freeze wrote.
I have a favorite story about love from another Mississippian, the late, and great Jerry Clower. A businessman was having lunch in a restaurant between appointments. While serving an adjoining table, a waitress dumps a bowl of hot soup down the businessman’s back. All the other customers gasp, stare, and anticipate that the man (in a now soup-sodden suit) will scream bloody murder. Instead, the fellow takes the waitress by the hand and says, “I’m so sorry that this happened to you. I know you are embarrassed.” That is a Hugh Freeze kind of love.
These days, one sees the media “spilling soup” down the backs of coaches on purpose. Usually, the coaches respond in kind. On July 19 at the close of ESPN’s Mike & Mike show, coach Freeze responds to Mike Greenberg’s on-air apology, “ Absolutely no problem, man. You’ve got a job to do, I’ve got a job to do, and at the end of the day we have respect for each other- and I love your show.”
Heaton: I’m happy Ole Miss Football is back on top, but I think love is what makes Hugh Freeze special to the program. Coach maintains his faith-driven cool with empathy, forgiveness, and love in whatever comes his way. Now I understand the power of faith.
Mrs. Freeze: “You hit the nail on the head.” Before we said goodbye, Mrs. Freeze final comment to me was, “I’m proud he’s mine.”
I’m proud he’s ours too, Mrs. Freeze.
Tim Heaton is a HottyToddy.com contributor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book, “Bless Your Heart, You Freakin’ Idiot: Southern Sayings Translated” is available on Amazon as well as “Momma n’ Em Said: The Treasury of Southern Sayings.”