Best of Gameday: Falcons vs. Buccaneers - 2014
Our photographers have combed through thousands of their photos and selected the very best images from the Associated Press from Thursday night's victory over the Buccaneers to feature in this Best of Gameday gallery.
One of the many great sights on NFL game days is watching countless Falcons fans fill the Georgia Dome and/or away stadiums, wearing the replica jersey of their favorite player, which got us to wondering if the players have a specific reason why they're wearing the number that is on the front and back of their jersey; Falcons rookie RB Devonta Freeman has one, indeed.
When the Atlanta Falcons selected Freeman in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, they knew they were getting a gem, both on and off the field. Upon signing with the team in May, Freeman wore No. 33 in rookie minicamp, OTAs, training camp and the team's preseason games, before making the switch to No. 24, right before the regular season, fueled by one motive.
"The main reason I chose 24 is to honor my auntie, who suffered a heart attack and passed away at the age of 24 on May 14, 2007," Freeman said. "She was my youngest auntie of my grandma’s kids. Her and I related more than my other aunties, because she was like one of my best friends. I just always want to represent her. Even though she’s not here, I know she’s walking with me, because of my faith; the last name Freeman speaks for itself, but the number 24 is for her."
At the time of his aunt's death, the then 15-year-old Freeman wasn't completely certain about his future plans, but motivated by the hard work, dedication and legacy of his aunt, he pursued education and sports, later thriving at Florida State University.
Among his many accolades at FSU, Freeman rushed 11 times for 73 yards, including a late second-quarter touchdown in Florida State’s 34-31 victory over Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game on January 6, 2014.
"She passed away in college," Freeman said of his aunt. "That was one of the main things that inspired me to go to college and to graduate. I’m playing football for God and my auntie. My family and me come last, but God and my auntie, they’re my main focus. I always ask the Lord to guide me and walk with me."
The path Freeman continues to pave, both on the football field and off, is truly one that would make any aunt proud, especially the one he represents, every day of his life.