Bloomfield's Dwight Freeney Elected To Pro Football Hall Of Fame

BLOOMFIELD, CT — Next week, Dwight Freeney turns 44 years old, but the legendary Connecticut football star received an early present Thursday with announcement of his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Freeney, who led Bloomfield High School to a perfect 12-0 record and a Class S state championship in 1997 before becoming one of the premier pass rushers in NFL history, was one of seven electees unveiled during the NFL Honors awards show on CBS. He was elected in his second year of eligibility, after making the final 15 in 2023.

He told FOX59/CBS4, “When all of a sudden you accomplish something like this, you go into football heaven. You really do. It’s something you’ll remember forever, obviously. It means the world because it’s not just about you. This is a win for Team Freeney, in a way. I represent my town, I represent my family, I represent my friends, I represent my teammates, I represent the strength coaches and all those people who helped me get here. Everybody has a little part of it and a big part of it. It’s an awesome feeling. That’s all you can say. It’s hard to describe the joy that you feel because of the magnitude. There is no higher achievement in the game of football than this. From an individual standpoint, there is none.”

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Despite not playing football in his freshman year at Bloomfield – opting to be a soccer goalie instead – Freeney parlayed his success with the Warhawks into a full scholarship to Syracuse University. He was a unanimous first-team All-American as a senior, leading the nation with 17.5 quarterback sacks. In 2002, he was the 11th overall selection in the NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts.

Not the biggest defensive lineman at 6-foot-1 and 268 pounds, Freeney developed an awesome spin move which combined speed and power, elevating his game into the upper echelon of defensive stalwarts. In 16 pro seasons, he recorded 125.5 sacks, leading the league in 2004, and forced 47 fumbles, tied for fourth all-time. He was selected to the All-Pro first team three times, made seven Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

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“I didn’t think while I was playing and making tackles and making sacks I was going to be a Hall of Famer,” he said. “I just went out and played as hard as I possibly could. I wanted to win for my team. I wanted to win for my family. I wanted to win for the city. You hear people say, ‘It was all worth it now.’ No, it was worth it whether I was a Hall of Famer or not. But this does put the icing on the cake. It does make me feel that everything I did to this point was right. Someone can follow this path and hopefully get to this point.”

Even bigger than any individual accomplishment was the Colts’ 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. Indianapolis returned to the big game in 2010, dropping a 31-17 decision to the New Orleans Saints, then Freeney made a final appearance in 2017 in one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever contested.

As a member of the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Freeney recorded a first-half sack of New England quarterback Tom Brady, helping his team open up a 28-3 lead by halftime. After intermission, however, the Patriots engineered the greatest comeback in championship game history, eventually winning 34-28 in overtime.

Just weeks after that heartbreaking Super Bowl loss, Freeney returned to his home state to accept one of Connecticut’s highest sports honors, the Gold Key Award, from the Connecticut Sports Media Alliance. He had previously been recognized by the organization in 2002 as recipient of the Bill Lee Male Athlete of the Year Award.

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“Someone told me once that you won’t ever achieve anything in life by yourself – you need help, and I definitely got a lot of that through my life,” he said in his 2017 acceptance speech.

Freeney becomes just the fourth native-born Connecticut player elected to the pro football shrine, following Ken Strong, Andy Robustelli and fellow Syracuse alum Floyd Little.

On the Colts’ official Twitter page, Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning said, “Congratulations, so happy for you, proud of you. Honored to be your teammate again in Canton. Just so well-deserved. I know how hard you worked your entire career. You were an incredible player, but an even better teammate, and I’m really happy for you. Congratulations, pal.”

On Aug. 3, Freeney will be joined by fellow Class of 2024 electees Julius Peppers, Devin Hester, Andre Johnson, Patrick Willis, Steve McMichael and Randy Gradishar at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio.

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