A continuation of the Packer Receivers of History series. To read the articles you missed, go to the Packer Receivers of History category page.
Antonio Freeman was the acrobat of the Packer receivers of history. More than once Free came down with a pass that simply shouldn’t have been caught.
Playing on a team that had once again become a perennial powerhouse and was just beginning to rise to it’s peak again, Freeman was a big part of a nearly unstoppable Packer machine.
The Packers drafted Freeman in the 3rd round of the 1995 draft. In his rookie season, Antonio only caught eight passes all season long but accomplished something in the playoffs that no other Packer had ever done before. In the playoff game against Atlanta that season, Free churned his way through 76 yards of turf and scored a touchdown off a punt return for the first time ever in Packer history.
The following year, Freeman really started coming into his own. He didn’t quite eclipse the 1,000 yard mark that season but he came close. In 1996, Freeman racked up 933 yards in receiving and, more importantly, was a part of the team that brought the long-absent championship trophy back to Lambeau Field.
The Packers had been 30 years without a championship. In that time, the Super Bowl trophy had been renamed after the fabled Packer coach, Vince Lombardi. Still, throughout the seventies and eighties the Packers hadn’t come close to bringing the aptly named trophy back home where it belongs.
But, in 1996, and with the help of Antonio Freeman, that trophy returned to Green Bay.
In Super Bowl XXXI, Freeman caught three passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown catch was an 81 yard reception that, at the time, was a Super Bowl record.
Freeman put together three back to back 1,000 yard season.
- 1997 – 1243 yards
- 1998 – 1424 yards
- 1999 – 1074 yards
By the 2000 season, Antonio’s numbers began to wane, but his ability to electrify the crowd hadn’t disappeared. Even though Free posted the fewest yards that season since his rookie season, he left Packer fans with a catch we will never forget. In overtime against the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers were facing a third down and four. Farve lofted a high pass in Freeman’s direction which appeared to be tapped by the defender to the ground. However, the ball had actually hit the back of Freeman’s shoulder and as he rolled to his back Antonio had the presence of mind to reel in the ball that was floating in the air in front of him, get up untouched, and dodge defenders on his way to the endzone and a much needed win against a Viking team that was 7-1 at the time.
After the 2002 season, Freeman left Green Bay to go to Philadelphia, but returned to the green and gold for a final season in 2003.
Freeman posted 6651 yards for the Packers and scored 57 touchdown. He also excited the Packer fan base with his acrobatic heroics. He will forever be loved by Packer fans everywhere.