September 2016 – “You have to win the day,” he said.
Almost five years after he spoke those words, Hugh Freeze, head football coach of the Ole Miss Rebels at the University of Mississippi, is still doing that – day after day, both on and off the field. Freeze has taken the Rebels from 14 consecutive conference losses to three bowl victories in four years.
For almost 25 years now, coaching has been Freeze’s ministry.
“I just don’t think you can separate the core of who you are from what you do,” Freeze told AFA Journal. “I’ve never tried to separate them. All of the philosophies that I have are rooted in my faith.”
Freeze was raised in a Christian home, and the faith of both his parents and grandparents had a profound impact on him. It was obvious that Christ was of utmost importance to them.
“So as soon as I felt like I had a good understanding of what Christ did for me on the cross and the redeeming power of His blood for fallen man, I wanted that,” Freeze said. “Not only for life eternal but for abundant life here.”
Freeze never forces his beliefs on anyone, but he is candid about his Christianity. He tells his players he is a believer, and they know it.
Freeze’s relationship with Christ is most evident in his love for and generosity toward others. He teaches a character traits program to his players. Under the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he ensures that a Sunday worship service is available on campus for his players and anyone else who wants to attend. And he encourages his players to be involved in activities and efforts beyond themselves.
“The happiest people I know are the most giving,” Freeze said. “We live in a self-absorbed, selfie generation. …”
To help his players grasp the importance of putting others first, for several years Freeze has led various groups to serve in Haiti during spring break. Through the Freeze Foundation (freezefoundation.org), a nonprofit organization established by Freeze and his wife Jill, an entire village in Haiti has been adopted. In conjunction with other ministries, the Freeze Foundation is working to provide the village with a school, water and irrigation, and instruction on how to farm the land and be self-sufficient.
The foundation partners with Reclaimed Project to fund an orphanage in Africa, and it is joining forces with the Tim Tebow Foundation to minister to children with special needs. In addition to its missions projects, the foundation provides an avenue for others to give financially and come alongside the Freeze family in their ministry efforts.
“I hope my faith transcends the way I talk, the way I act, the way I respond,” he admitted. “I’m certainly far from perfect. That’s why I need a perfect God.”
The spotlight doesn’t come without struggles. Freeze says he is still sensitive to what people say and think about him. At those times, God asks: “Am I enough? If I am enough, then it really doesn’t matter.”
“If I’m dying daily to myself, it really doesn’t matter what men say,” Freeze said. “It matters what God says.”
And He is more than enough.