All-America Candidate Outland Trophy Watch List 2006 Team Captain
Career: Two-time All-Mid-Am pick (2004-05). Heads into senior campaign with an active string of 36 consecutive starts (34 at LT and two at TE) and 156 knockdown blocks in 2,287 career snaps (2003-05). Serious 2007 National Football League draft material. All-America candidate with unique combination of athleticism, quick feet, and work ethic. Nicknamed by Northern Illinois teammates as "Doug Freak" for athleticism (:05.0 speed, 29-inch vertical jump, and 565-pound squat lift. Compared to former Huskie Third-Team All-America OT and Indianapolis Colts (fourth-round pick in 2001 NFL draft) starter Ryan Diem. Rated by ESPN.com analyst Bill Curry as one of three best non-skill position players in the country, along with Boston College DE Mathias Kiwanuka and Minnesota C Greg Eslinger. "Even at 6-7, 302, he (Free) can get out and lead RB Garrett Wolfe downfield on screens. Coach Joe Novak says Free could play TE in the NFL." Anchored rock-solid Northern Illinois O-line that blocked for nation's No. 16 major-college rushing attack (206.7 yards-per-game average) and total offense (441.1 ypg.) last season and paved the way for 1,000-yard rushers such as All-America tailbacks Michael "The Burner" Turner and Garrett Wolfe.
Joe Novak: "No question, Doug has the talent to play on Sundays. Knock on wood, I believe he's going to be a first-round draft pick. Doug Free's a lot better athlete than Ryan Diem. He (Free) can run! You just don't see many offensive linemen that can run at that size like he can. What's impressive is he'll sit back in pass protection and then we'll throw the ball down the field and he''ll run downfield and block a safety. I mean, get downfield! You just don't see kids who can do that. He's special. Our kids call him `Doug Freak' because he runs so well."
2006 Preseason: Named to Outland Trophy Watch List. Honorable Mention All-America, First-Team All-MAC selection, and listed as league's "top NFL prospect" by Street & Smith's. First-Team All-America selection by Insiders' Football News. Listed as Third-Team All-America and First-Team All-MAC by Athlon Sports preseason publication. Tabbed First-Team All-MAC by Blue Ribbon College Football Digest. First-Team All-MAC and ranked as No. 8 offensive tackle in the nation by The Sporting News. Honorable mention All-America and rated as No. 6 offensive tackle in the nation by CollegeFootballNews.com. Listed as the nation's No. 8 offensive tackle by Lindy's preseason publication in addition to being tabbed as the MAC's "Best Run Blocker" and the league's No. 2 NFL Draft candidate and a first-team all-conference pick. Tabbed as First-Team All-MAC, ranked as the No. 10 offensive tackle nationally, and No. 26 on 2007 NFL Draft List by Phil Steele's College Football Preview. Named on preseason Third-Team NationalChamps.Net All-America. Listed as fourth-best senior offensive tackle and No. 23 among senior prospects for 2007 NFL Draft by Mel Kiper. First-Team All-MAC by CBS SportsLine.
2005: Selected First-Team All-MAC by league coaches and CollegeFootballNews.com last fall. Rated No. 18 prospect in nation by CollegeFootballNews.com ("a frightening blend of strength and speed," according to the website). Ranked No. 1 (tie) in team blocking grades (91 percent), No. 2 in "flatback" blocks (13), and No. 3 in knockdown blocks (49). Won 12 starts at LT and played 806 snaps. Nominated for MAC All-Academic and CoSIDA District V All-Academic with 3.24 cumulative grade point average as Industrial Technology major. Earned several preseason accolades including beding tabbed as Honorable Mention All-America by Street & Smith's College Football, No. 45 OT in nation by Phil Steele's College Football Preview, plus at least six First-Team All-MAC units (Street & Smith's, CollegeFootballNews.com, Phil Steele's, CBS SportsLine.com College Football, The Sporting News, and Lindy's).
2004: Best all-around athlete on top-notch Northern Illinois O-line front that featured four All-MAC performers (2004). Named Third-Team CollegeSportsReport.com Sophomore All-America and coaches' Second-Team All-MAC. Earned second letter with 878 total snaps (806 on offense and 72 on placement kick unit) in 12 starts. Led O-line in blocking grades (91 percent) and flatback blocks (17), plus rated No. 2 in O-line snaps (806) and No. 4 in team knockdown blocks (67). Earned "plus" grades on 654 of 806 O-line plays. Went career-high 99 snaps (92 on offense) vs. Eastern Michigan (11-20-04). Tied for No. 37 in team tackles (one). Credited with stop vs. No. 22 (AP) Maryland (9-4-04).
2003: Named Third-Team Frosh All-America by The Sporting News. Blocked for one of only two 1-A offenses with 2,500-yard passer, 1,500-yard rusher, and 1,000-yard receiver. Won first letter with 12 starts (10 at LT and two at TE) and 603 overall snaps (595 on offense and eight on special teams). Earned "plus" grades on 477 plays at OT and wound up No. 3 in team knockdown blocks (40). Played season-high 87 snaps vs. Western Michigan (10-18-03). Opened year at No. 2 RT. Went from zero 1-A snaps to Frosh All-America in five months (2003).
2002: Red-shirted as true frosh. Began career at No. 3 LT.
Prep: Ranked as No. 9 college prospect in state by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (2002). Named team captain and Defensive Lineman of the Year, First-Team All-Fox Valley Conference on both offense and defense, First-Team Herald Times Reporter All-Area, and First-Team Milwaukee Journal Sentinel All-State on 7-3 playoff entry and league runner-up as a senior for coach John Dixon. Recorded 64 tackles, eight sacks, seven blocked kicks, six fumble-cause hits, five deflections, and two fumble recoveries at DT, plus made six receptions for 141 yards and one TD at TE (2001). Named First-Team All-FVC as a junior. Lettered in football (3). Honor Roll student.
Chart: Boasts second-best squat lift on roster with 500-pound effort. Produced 18 reps with 225 pounds, 29-inch vertical jump, 350-pound power clean, and 355-pound bench press in off-season conditioning program (2006).