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Atlanta Falcons defensive end Dwight Freeney answers questions Monday night in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
With 14 years in the NFL, Falcons defensive end Dwight Freeney knows it's been a long time since he had his chance to declare his choice on National Signing Day.
"I think that was 1998 or something like that for me,'' Freeney said Wednesday. "I remember being in the cafeteria and having that orange Syracuse hat, and it was a big moment for me.''
Freeney chases a quarterback at Syracuse on Nov. 10, 2001. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)
Freeney wound up the 11th overall pick by Indianapolis in the 2002 draft, and now he's with his third NFL team preparing for his third Super Bowl with Atlanta in Houston. He called the college choice a big decision, the biggest ever for any player who winds up in the NFL.
"That's a decision that you could actually decide,'' Freeney said. "Because after that, there is no you. From collge to pros, you can't choose that. Once you get in the pros, you get locked in. This is the last decision you'll actually be able to make from a team perspective, school perspective ever. So it's a huge deal and i'm happy for those guys.''
Not everyone who plays in college football or reaches the NFL actually makes that decision on National Signing Day. Falcons running back Devonta Freeman said he left early for college, finishing high school in December.
"I was in college in January, so I didn't get the whole experience,'' said Freeman, who went to Florida State.
Atlanta coach Dan Quinn joked he would have had a negative rating if he had gotten one in high school. He played football and ran track at Salisbury State when high school football players didn't select a hat to reveal their college choices. Living in Georgia in the heart of the Southeastern Conference, Quinn knows just how important National Signing Day is for college football.
"I think that's a really cool day,'' Quinn said. "I'm really pumped for these young guys who are about to make their mark and go take their stand about where they want to go. So from our area, the amount of players that go and play all over hte country is pretty remarkable."