Royce Freeman, the all-time rushing leader in the history of Oregon football, will not play in the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State.
Mario Cristobal, recently named the Ducks’ head coach, announced Freeman’s decision when meeting with reporters Thursday. The news means Freeman finishes his college career with 5,621 rushing yards — officially sixth-most in FBS history behind Donnell Pumphrey (San Diego State), Ron Dayne (Wisconsin), Ricky Williams (Texas), Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh) and DeAngelo Williams (Memphis).
Freeman’s best season was 2015 when he totaled 1,836 yards and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore. He finished this season with 1,475 yards and 16 touchdowns, giving him 60 career rushing touchdowns. Freeman also registered 79 receptions for 814 yards and four scores during his Oregon career.
Elsewhere, West Virginia running back Justin Crawford has also decided not to suit up for his team’s bowl game to “focus on his preparation for the 2018 NFL Draft.” Crawford rushed for 2,245 yards in two seasons at WVU, which faces Utah in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
“Justin has logged a lot of miles and been a key contributor for us the past two seasons,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He made a decision to not play in the bowl game based on what is best for him and his family. He came to West Virginia to further his education and be a featured back in the Big 12 and he accomplished his goals. As he starts his preparation for the NFL Draft, we wish him nothing but the best.”
Freeman and Crawford become the fourth and fifth college players this season to decide to skip his team’s bowl game in order to avoid injury and begin preparing for a professional career. The first three this year were offensive lineman Connor Williams and safety DeShon Elliott, both of Texas, and Florida State defensive back Derwin James.
It seems just one year after the decisions of Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette, both top 10 NFL draft picks, to sit out their respective team’s bowl games were roundly criticized, that the general public understands the motivation behind these decisions. These players have millions and millions of dollars on the line. We’ve seen with Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith and Michigan tight end Jake Butt how an injury in a bowl game can impact a player’s draft status. It may not be in the best interest of a player’s team, but it makes a lot of sense for their future financially, especially when it’s a low-level bowl game that doesn’t carry a lot of weight.
Don’t be surprised when the list of players sitting out continues to grow as we inch closer to bowl season.
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