So far, Hugh Freeze’s triumphant return to SEC football couldn’t be going much better.
In his first season as the Auburn head coach, Freeze has his Tigers sitting at 3-0, the best start for the program since the 2019 season. A come-from-behind 14-10 victory on the road against California was sandwiched between two easy home wins against Massachusetts (59-14) and Samford (45-13).
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) September 10, 2023
Now, the real test begins.
Auburn will open SEC play on Saturday on the road at Texas A&M (12 p.m. ET on ESPN). Following that, the Tigers will have three consecutive matchups against teams currently ranked in the top 15 nationally. One of these is hosting No. 1 Georgia on Sept. 30 and another is hosting the team Freeze coached from 2012-2016, No. 15 Ole Miss, on Oct. 21.
Freeze left Ole Miss ignominiously, as he was embroiled in a recruiting scandal as well as a personal failure that had become public. It ruined his reputation in the eyes of many. Yet as he experienced the depths of the consequences for his sins, Freeze turned to his only true hope for forgiveness and repentance: his Heavenly Father.
“When my walls came crumbling down around me, the faith that I stand on through the Son of God, Jesus Christ — it is a solid rock. A solid foundation,” Freeze told Liberty University students and staff in 2018, during his first public appearance following his departure from Ole Miss. “And when all hell is breaking loose around you and everybody has their opinion about what is going on, and you know that you’ve hurt the heart of God, His love never changes. Ever.
“My mind is set. It is settled. My eyes are clear. My heart is full. My feet are pointed forward. And I am looking forward, with thanksgiving, to what God has for me and my family next, because of His great love, and His great forgiveness.”
What God had in store for the Freeze family was made clear in December 2018, when Hugh was offered a contract to become the next head football coach at Liberty. In his four years with the Flames, his team posted a record of 34-15 (including a 10-1 season in 2020) and three bowl victories. He was then offered the Auburn job last November.
Freeze joined Sports Spectrum’s “Weekly Slant” in 2021, while he was still at Liberty, to talk about football, faith, forgiveness and God’s incredible grace.
“I’m much more easy to give grace and mercy (after receiving it from God),” Freeze said. He continued later, “Integrity is not always getting it right, or none of us would have it. To me, it’s when you don’t get it right. You own it, you accept whatever consequences come with it, you make the necessary changes and you play the next play. That’s Peter. That’s Paul (of the Bible).”
Now as a man whose heart has been changed by the grace of God, Freeze seeks opportunities to give Him the glory. Just such an opportunity came his way last week, when he took part in “UNITE Auburn.” The event featured a number of speakers and a worship band performance. Thousands of students attended while hundreds of students professed faith in Christ and got baptized.
One of them was Sylvester Smith, a freshman safety for the Tigers. He asked Freeze to assist in the sacrament.
GOD is moving in Auburn!!!
Students, athletes, and whoever are giving their lives to Jesus and getting baptized at the Red Barn🙌🏾🔥 pic.twitter.com/XfRN23aquE
— AUBURN SUPERFAN #2 (@MichaelFloyd_AU) September 13, 2023
“The foundational core of who I am is based on faith in God through His Son Jesus Christ,” Freeze said on a March 2019 edition of the Sports Spectrum Podcast. “And that certainly doesn’t mean I’m perfect, as everyone knows, but I am forgiven and I want everyone to experience that forgiveness, that same grace and mercy that I’ve received.”
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– WATCH: Sports Spectrum’s ‘Weekly Slant’ w/ Liberty Head Coach Hugh Freeze
– SS PODCAST: Hugh Freeze, Liberty Head Football Coach (2019)
– SS PODCAST: Hugh Freeze, Former Ole Miss Head Football Coach (2018)
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