CHARLOTTE — Wanyae Freeman had to watch from the JV field the first time his team won a state championship, but he’s earned the ultimate sendoff after leading the Carolina Bearcats to a title and signing with UNC Greensboro on Feb. 5.
Freeman started his career at Harding, earning the starting quarterback nod as a freshman. After three starts and a 2-1 record, he was no longer the starter.
“I wasn’t disappointed, but I was more wondering why now,” Freeman said. “We were 2-1 on the season, I’m a freshman starting on varsity and doing well. When it came to that fourth game, Braheem (Murphy) became the starter and coach didn’t ever really tell me why. It just got taken away, and I didn’t really know how to respond to it.”
Freeman was the backup from then on, but he eventually asked if he could get some reps on the JV team, who he started for the final three games of the season.
The next year it was more of the same. Freeman was the backup on Friday nights and starting for the JV team while Harding went on to win the 2017 NCHSAA 4-A title.
“I didn’t get in one game of varsity during the season, so I knew then that I needed a new opportunity,” Freeman said.
While weighing his options, Freeman said a couple his friends told him about what was then the Carolina Pride, a team rebranded in 2019 to be the Carolina Bearcats.
He went to a practice and saw there were some opportunities with the team.
“I was going to try it out,” he said. “I wanted somebody to use my talent and not waste it. I stayed humble and stuck it through.”
The Bearcats struggled on defense during Freeman’s junior season, allowing more than 43 points per game.
But Freeman did an admirable job leading the offense. In 2018, he threw for over 1,200 yards, 12 touchdowns and ran for eight more.
That’s when people started to take notice of his athleticism and talent. After his junior season, Freeman picked up his first offer from Wake Forest. He can remember his excitement.
“I knew I could do it,” Freeman said. “Once my first offer rolled in, I knew it was my time. I started to get my confidence back. After that, I started grinding harder, harder and harder.”
The more Freeman worked, the more the offers kept coming.
His story is one of determination and also affirms the old adage that if you can play, college scouts will find you.
Freeman had gone from the bright lights of Friday night high school football to playing for the Bearcats in college stadiums in front of a couple hundred fans at the most.
It was a humbling experience, he said, but one he says changed him for the better.
“I had to trust the process,” he said. “I know I came from a small program that didn’t have recognition, but I got to be a leader. God put me here to be that leader. I do it from the heart, but I also had to stay humble and trust in the man up top. You can come from any background, but if you believe in yourself, you can do it.”
Freeman got more confidence as the 13 or so offers he ended up continued to roll in, and he played like it this season.
He had statistical spikes across the board and finished 2019 wth 2,175 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. He scored four rushing touchdowns. Freeman didn’t have a backup, so he didn’t run as much as he would have liked.
The Bearcats took their lumps against Charlotte Latin and Chester, but when it came time for the GPIAA playoffs, Freeman delivered three wins, culminating with a 40-14 win over the North Wake Saints in the state title game.
“It was a great way to end it,” he said. “But I’m ready to keep working and keep grinding because I have a lot of work to do.”