Freddie Pinder wakes up and gets ready for a training session with NFL and college players.
The 6 a.m. daily workouts come early, but the 6-foot-5, 220-pound former Southridge wide receiver is training in hopes of receiving another opportunity.
“I can’t give up just yet,” Pinder said. “I won’t give up just yet.”
Pinder was once-regarded as a four-star prospect in the 2016 class with reported offers from LSU, Clemson, Miami, and Florida among others. He eventually signed with FIU with uncertainties regarding his academic standing.
Pinder’s journey since graduating from Southridge has included stints at four different colleges in three different states. He enrolled at FIU, spending the summer there before finding out there were questions surrounding the eligibility of classes he completed at Southrige as they were not initially accepted by the NCAA.
He left FIU and attended Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College in 2017. Eventually the high school classes were accepted, but he was already at his new school.
“It was mixed emotions because I could have still been at FIU, but I was already at Coffeyville and I just had to go with the flow,” Pinder said.
After a year at Coffeyville, he attended ASA College Miami in 2018, and joined Lincoln University of Missouri, where he planned to play during the 2019 season.
However, with a GPA of 2.4—lower than the new coaching staff’s requirement of a 2.5—Pinder would not suit up for the Blue Tigers.
“It was kind of discouraging at one point,” said Pinder of how his collegiate career has gone. “I was talking to my dad about it once upon a time and was really telling him that I might just stop, I might just give up, I might try not to play anymore because all of the stuff I was going through. I’m not a bad person and I know the grade part is on me. What really kept me going is with me having a son, I’ve got to take care of my son and plus my mentors.”
One of Pinder’s mentors is Buffalo Bills receiver and former Homestead standout John Brown. The two have a close connection as Pinder’s girlfriend is Brown’s sister. Pinder, like many players in the area, have great admiration for Brown.
“He’s a stand-up guy, the most genuine guy that I’ve ever met,” Pinder said. “I’ve never seen someone with that much impact on a community. He is a person that all the kids look up to. Sometimes when we work out he tells parents to brings kids out there for no charge. Usually some people will charge them to train their children, but he doesn’t do any of that. It’s all out of the kindness of his heart, everything he does.
“He’s just an awesome person. I really can’t too much explain it, but he doesn’t give you no negative vibes. You wouldn’t say anything but positive things about him. He’s just a great guy, he helps people, he doesn’t make excuses, he works super hard. He’s a great person and I’m so glad I met him and I’m so glad I met his sister. Things happen for a reason.”
Brown, who is coming off his best season in the NFL with career-highs in receptions (72) and yards (1,060), has been working out in South Florida with Pinder and current Bills teammate Jaquan Johnson. University of Miami’s Dee Wiggins and DJ Ivey and former Louisville cornerback Trumaine Washington have also joined.
Brown has been helping Pinder with positive words of encouragement.
“He tells me not to give up because he knows I’ve got the talent for it,” Pinder said. “He’s been in the league seven years now and he knows I can fit in there. Hearing that from him, it motivates me. It gives me some hope a little bit. He’s always on me and I like that. I don’t want anybody to baby me or pity me.”
Pinder continues to train and remains hopeful he will receive another opportunity.
“I just want to find a spot where I can use my two years of eligibility wisely because I’m going to work hard wherever I go and I didn’t lose any of my talent from high school,” Pinder said. “I just know I’m going to make it count wherever I go. I just want to find the right place and somebody willing to take me in as family, make me a part of the team, and let me do what I do on the field.”