Former Auburn linebacker Eltoro Freeman: ‘Tommy Tuberville is a man of true character’
It appears that an attempt is underway to drum up an October surprise in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race.
Two former Auburn University football players, both of whom played under then-head coach Tommy Tuberville, have told Yellowhammer News that they were recently contacted by Mark Bechtel, an editor with Sports Illustrated based in San Francisco, CA.
Yellowhammer News granted these former Tigers the ability to speak on background about their interaction with Bechtel. Yellowhammer’s interviews were conducted individually after both players separately came forward on their own accord.
The players outlined that Bechtel, in their view, tried to put words in their mouths that disparaged Tuberville inaccurately.
In a Monday interview with Yellowhammer News, former Auburn linebacker Eltoro Freeman confirmed that several of his former Tigers teammates had contacted him with similar accounts to those of the two players who came forward.
Freeman lamented that he was “very disturbed” by the things Bechtel was trying to get players to say about Tuberville, with Freeman calling on Bechtel to interview him for an accurate account of the kind of man and leader Tuberville is.
Tuberville recruited Freeman, who was born and raised in Alexander City, to Auburn during the coach’s last years on campus.
Although the coach was not on the sidelines anymore for Freeman’s first season on The Plains in 2009, his interactions with Tuberville during the recruiting process — and after college off-the-field — have left a lifelong impression.
“I just want to set the record clear … I know a lot of my former teammates — they are upset about it as well,” Freeman noted. “Because one of the main things Coach Tommy Tuberville stood for, the first thing, was establishing a relationship with God and making sure all of us knew about God.”
The former player explained how Tuberville was at the forefront of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes being introduced to mainstream college football and how the coach made it a personal priority to ensure the individual wellbeing of players came before football.
“When you have a guy like that, who stands for that first, then there’s no division; no black and white, there’s no rich or poor, none of that,” Freeman commented. “Coach Tommy Tuberville is a man of true character, a man of the people — he loves all people.”
He reminisced about the first time Tuberville visited him and his parents at their Alex City home on the recruiting trail. Freeman explained that Tuberville looked them all dead in the eyes and stressed how Auburn would be a place where Freeman could live his Christian faith, grow as a person and get a quality education.
“He never really talked about athletics … and that was shocking to me,” Freeman remarked. “And my mom and dad, they’re still in love with him [to this day] just from that conversation.”
Freeman throughout the interview stressed that he did not come forward to attempt to influence anyone’s vote but instead to stand up for a man he truly respects and admires; Freeman said this is not about Tuberville the candidate but Tuberville the man.
That man, Freeman said, is like another “parent” to him and countless other former players. And the things he heard of Bechtel saying “were as far from the truth as possible.”
“When I hear things like that, I just go, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ I just laugh,” Freeman said. “It’s upsetting a lot of people who know [Tuberville]. And it’s unfortunate for people who don’t know him, because that’s all they’re hearing.”
Freeman continued to emphasize that Tuberville is to him “a man of character and a man of God” who cared about student-athletes as individual persons first and players second.
“[T]he things he stood on, the principles he stood on — he’s more than a coach,” Freeman underscored. “He had a huge impact on my life. To this day.”
Is Bechtel biased?
After hearing Freeman’s account, which corroborated the previous background interviews, Yellowhammer News dug into Bechtel’s social media activity.
The results revealed that Bechtel is pretty openly partisan, embracing causes championed by the left and showing personal disdain for President Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans. Bechtel tweeted at U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) last year, “[Y]ou are garbage.”
And, even though he lives in California, Bechtel has retweeted U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on multiple occasions this year alone. He also celebrated Jones’ 2017 special election victory in at least two tweets.
good year for guys named doug jones pic.twitter.com/q9v4woaDQp
— Mark Bechtel (@SI_MarkBechtel) December 13, 2017
Following the race being called for Jones the night of December 12, 2017, Bechtel tweeted in all caps, “DOUG F***ING JONES.” (Editor’s note: Censoring added by Yellowhammer News)
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn