Syracuse Football Top 25 Players of All-Time: No. 2 Dwight Freeney

Syracuse football, Dwight Freeney (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Syracuse football, Dwight Freeney (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

Syracuse Football has had a long history of success. We look back at some of the best players to play at Syracuse University. Up next, No. 2: Dwight Freeney

Syracuse Football has fielded multiple outstanding athletes since the program began in 1889. A select few though have stood out above the rest and have made a dent in the Syracuse Football record books and in our hearts. Most of those have been offensive players like Art Monk, Donovan McNabb, Jim Brown, Marvin Harrison, Ernie Davis, Don McPherson, and John Mackey. However, once in a while there is a defensive player that stands out among the rest showing that the Orangemen have been more than just an offensive juggernaut. The next legend on our list, No. 2 Dwight Freeney, is one of those men that made an impact defensively unlike any other in Syracuse Football history.

Many fans might criticize why Dwight Freeney is this high on this list. Sure he’s a name we all know if we watched NFL Football in the last decade or two, as he was a superstar defensive player who had a signature spin move to get free of the offensive lineman, but it’s more than that. Freeney was a humble athlete both on and off the field, both at Syracuse and in the NFL. He had great worth ethic and outplayed his size, which was small for a defensive end, every time he put on pads to play football.

Before his enormous success in the NFL, Freeney was a star defensive player for the Orangemen. He would play all four years for Syracuse, finishing in the Top 10 of multiple Syracuse defensive categories. Only Tim Green, also in the Top 10 on our list, could really rival what Freeney was able to accomplish while playing for the Orange.

In Freeney’s first season in 1998, he saw the field in almost every game playing in ten games as a freshman, which is abnormal unless you have the talent and poise to be out there. In fact, Freeney was the first true freshman to play for the team, according to However, in those ten games, Freeney only registered three tackles, but did force two fumbles, and a pass break-up. At years end, he registered a half-sack and an assisted tackle for a loss in the Orange Bowl against Florida in a 31-10 loss, according to

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Freeney’s sophomore season would very similar to his freshman year. He would once again appear in almost every game, playing in 11 of the team’s 12 games, but only started two of them. The good news though is that he made better use of his time on the field, recording 19 tackles, (9 solo) to pair with 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble. In the Music City Bowl at season’s end, Freeney had a pretty decent game recording four tackles and one sack in a 20-13 win over Kentucky. The Orange would finish that 1999 season with a 7-5 overall record as a result, according to

In his third year on campus, Freeney finally took flight and became the player we would see for the next two decades. In that 2000 season for the Orangemen, he registered 32 tackles (23 solo) to pair with 13.0 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss (T-2nd in the Big East that year) and three forced fumbles (T-1st in the Big East that year) in just a seven-game span. He missed the rest of the team’s games due to illness, but would start in all seven games he played in. Still, that is an average of just over a sack and four tackles per game!

What’s crazier still is that those 13.0 sacks (in just seven games) led the Big East conference that year, and was tied for fifth all-time at that point. In addition, he had perhaps his best game of his SU career against Virginia Tech, recording 4.5 sacks on Michael Vick which is still a Syracuse Football record to this day. To this day, Syracuse fans still wonder what Freeney’s statistical ceiling could have been had he played the team’s other four games and not missed them due to illness.

Despite the limited number of games, named Freeney a Second-team All-American. In addition, Freeney was also named to the All-ECAC First Team, as well as the All-BIG EAST First Team, one of four unanimous selections that year. The Orange would finish 6-5 overall that year though and would not be selected to play in a bowl game at season’s end, according to

PITTSBURGH, PA – OCTOBER 13: Defensive lineman Dwight Freeney #54 of the Syracuse University Orange sacks quarterback Rod Rutherford #12 of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers during a Big East college football game at Heinz Field on October 13, 2001 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Syracuse defeated Pitt 42-10. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – OCTOBER 13: Defensive lineman Dwight Freeney #54 of the Syracuse University Orange sacks quarterback Rod Rutherford #12 of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers during a Big East college football game at Heinz Field on October 13, 2001 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Syracuse defeated Pitt 42-10. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

In his final season in Orange, the one that really got NFL scouts looking at him, he would play and start in all 12 games Syracuse played in. He would record 50 tackles (33 solo), 25.5 tackles for a loss to pair with an incredible 17.5 sacks! His 17.5 sacks set the NCAA, Big East, and Syracuse single-season record that year. In addition, Freeney also had eight forced fumbles (Big Eats record that year), and three fumble recoveries bringing that total to 11, which set an NCAA record as well that year. At year’s end, Freeney unsurprisingly was named by nine media outlets All-American teams (most of which were First Team), was a unanimous First Team All-BIG EAST selection, and was also named the Big East co-Defensive Player of the Year.

In his four years at Syracuse, Freeney put up some monster numbers, especially in his last two seasons in Orange. Here’s a look at how he stands in Syracuse Football’s all-time record books (all stats courtesy of

  • 50.5 career tackles for a loss of 297 yards (1st)
  • 25.5 tackles for a loss of 141 yards- 2001 (1st)
  • 4.5 sacks in a game against Virginia Tech- 2000 (1st)
  • 34.0 career sacks (2nd)
  • 18.0 tackles for a loss of 115 yards- 2000 (2nd)
  • 17.5 sacks- 2001 (1st), 13.0 sacks- 2000 (5th)
  • 16.0 tackles for a loss of 105 yards (T-6th)

He would finish his career at Syracuse with 104 tackles, (68 solo), had 34.0 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. Freeney’s 34.0 sacks rank second-all time at Syracuse to only Tim Green, who had an amazing 45.5 sacks in his career on the Hill. If that’s not dominant, I don’t know what is!

After his career at Syracuse, Dwight Freeney was selected with the 11th overall pick in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. He would play in the NFL for 17 seasons, 11 of which were with the Colts where he became one of the most recognized pass-rushers in the league.

In his time in Indianapolis, he started 143 of 163 games he played in recording incredible stats: 107.5 sacks, 316 combined tackles (274 solo), 113 tackles of a loss, 112 QB hits, 43 forced fumbles, one safety, three fumble recoveries, and one fumble recovery for a touchdown, according to Pro-Football In the eleven years he played with the Colts, he was selected to seven Pro Bowls, was named a first-team All-Pro three times (2004 2005, 2009), and a second-team All-Pro once (2003). He would not register a Pro Bowl or All-Pro selection after his time with the Colts. In addition, he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2005, according to, after registering 16.0 sacks- 1st in the NFL that year.

That same year, along with Peyton Manning & Co., he led the Colts to a 19-17 win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, registering one fumble recovery. He would also go to the Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, but would ultimately lose to the New England Patriots in heartbreaking fashion.

Freeney would finish his career with the following stats (courtesy of

  • 218 games played (157 starts)
  • 350 combined tackles (299 solo)
  • 128 tackles for a loss (T-15th All-time)
  • 148 QB hits
  • 125.5 sacks (18th All-time)
  • 46 forced fumbles (4th All-time)
  • 4 fumble recoveries
  • one fumble recovery for a touchdown
  • one safety

Dwight Freeney looks to be a sure-fire Hall of Famer. He was a force to be reckoned with both in the NFL and at Syracuse, and was one of the best defensive ends of all-time. He was a superstar on defense that opposing teams lost sleep over. You knew the train was coming and you couldn’t stop it. That’s how great Freeney was.

Next. Syracuse Football: Dwight Freeney is ‘virtual lock’ for Pro Football Hall of Fame. dark

Though ranking Freeney No. 2 on our list might seem high when you consider all the great athletes that have come to Syracuse over the past century or so, you must realize Freeney is arguably the best defensive player to ever play for Syracuse and represent them in the pros. Syracuse Football might never see a defensive player again quite as amazing and dominant as Freeney was, and it’s for that reason he falls just one spot shy of the top spot on our list.