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Freiermuth on having to wait to play football: ‘This has been the hardest time mentally for me’

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Pat Freiermuth

Pat Freiermuth opened up with some very candid comments about how difficult it was for him personally not being able to play after the Big Ten initially decided to postpone its season.

Freiermuth appeared on the “Marty Smith’s America” podcast and answered some good, probing questions by the host about the whole ordeal.

The All-American tight end said repeatedly that things were hard. How hard, Smith asked?

“There were days where I would wake up just kind of being like, What am I doing still at Penn State?” Freiermuth said. “Why am I not working toward my future in the NFL, and why aren’t I working out today, or I don’t feel like working out. It was just so hard because there’s always that end goal of a national championship or a Big Ten championship.”

Freiermuth also had this to say about the lack of communication in the weeks leading up to the Big Ten finally reversing its decision to play.

“This has been the hardest time mentally for me that I’ve ever been a part of a situation or movement,” he said. “I was struggling pretty hard mentally. I was leaning on my support system. They were there for me, but it’s just hard because no one knows what to say.

“Coach Franklin is such a good leader, and as a leader, in my opinion, you have to have open communication and open dialogue. There was just none of that. So it was just very frustrating because you’d see these reports on Twitter and any kind of social media and it was saying all these random different things, and you didn’t know what was true and what to believe.”

Freiermuth said he couldn’t even believe the news that was out there about him, after a report had surfaced that he was going to opt out of the season and prepare for the NFL.

Smith asked the tight end what it’s like to read news about himself.

“It’s definitely weird,” Freiermuth said. “Because I just feel like, the report that came out that I was leaving, it wasn’t true. So I was kind of frustrated and kind of being like, alright, well there’s reports out there of me that’s not really true. But I didn’t want to say anything out front public immediately because I just wanted time to digest it. But it’s definitely weird.”

Freiermuth ended the speculation about his future by appearing on BTN during an interview with James Franklin.

“With the uncertainty of the Big Ten coming back and the season getting canceled, obviously there was some open dialogue between me and Coach Franklin and my tight ends coach, Coach Bowen, about the chance of me leaving and the pros and the cons,” he said on the podcast.

“When the Big Ten announced they were coming back, I called Coach Franklin and said those conversations are dead. I’m coming back, and I can’t wait to play.

“He was like, I’m about to go on Big Ten Network, so why don’t you come up. Because there was some reports out there that I was going to leave. So he said, why don’t you come up and tell everyone you’re saying. So I just wanted to show everyone in Nittany Nation, I’m here, I love Penn State and can’t wait to play for Penn State another season.”

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It’s been tough for Freiermuth and his teammates to sit back and watch other college football teams playing in recent weeks.

“It was very tough,” Freiermuth said. “I was watching it with my roommates, and it was just very tough watching these other kids and these other programs go and compete for a championship or a W in the win column.

“It was just very hard, especially with the Big Ten being one of the top, if not the best conferences in the country, I just felt like the SEC, the ACC and these other kind of small conferences are playing, why can’t we get the opportunity to play? I’m very thankful for the players and the parents, especially my mom, who really helped, who’s the leader of the players association here, put out a message that we feel comfortable playing.”

Freiermuth said he had conversations with Franklin and Bowen about the pros and cons of going pro or coming back to Penn State. There were no major factors one way or the other, he noted, so he decided to come back and compete for a national championship.

Freiermuth is considered a first-round NFL draft pick and has been compared to NFL superstar Rob Gronkowski, getting the nickname “Baby Gronk.”

“Gronk, in my opinion, is the best tight end in forever, to be honest,” Frei said. “I think he brings the kind of mentality that he’s not going to get stopped. That’s kind of what I bring to my game. He’s really good at all three phases. I just try to emulate his game into my game and watch film on him.”

Smith asked Freiermuth to offer up a self scout, of things he does well and areas he needs to improve.

“I think I do a really good job finding those holes in zone defense, exploiting the defense and getting open,” Freiermuth said. “I think I bring a physicality to the offense, kind of mindset that I’m not going to let the guy across from me beat me at anything — that’s blocking, pass and running routes.

“I think this year I need to take the next step at being better at the point of attack, creating movement on the line of scrimmage, and then obviously just winning vs. man coverage, continue to be a security blanket for (Sean Clifford) and continue to get open.”

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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