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Freeney says he wasn't offered gifts in college

INDIANAPOLIS – Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said he never accepted any gifts, nor was offered any, when he was a star defensive end at Syracuse from 1998 to 2002.

Freeney has no doubts agents give college players money, though.

"I don't think (players) think they're owed that money. But you're a college kid – you're 19, 20 or 21 years old – and you don't have a dollar in your pocket," Freeney said Wednesday. "You're struggling to save every penny you have for college or to eat. Then you have a guy that comes around and says, 'Here, you're going to be (in the pros) this year anyway. Take this credit card.' I don't know how they do it.

"They don't think, 'Somebody's going to catch me with this.' They should, but they don't think in those terms."

A Sports Illustrated story in the Oct. 18 issue features a former agent, Josh Luchs, who alleges he paid players – a clear violation of NCAA rules – and that it's a prevalent occurrence in college football.

From 2000 to 2004, Luchs was employed by Gary Wichard, Freeney’s longtime agent. The SI story doesn’t say Wichard paid players, and Luchs claimed he stopped while in his employ.

"I've never seen personally, knowing Gary for as long as I've known him, he never gave me money. I wish he would have given me money," Freeney said jokingly. "But seriously, I hadn't seen or heard of any situations where he's given any of his guys money."

The SI story alleges that Wichard uses his friendship with people in the media, such as ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., whose opinions on players is valued in NFL circles, as a means to attracting high-profile clients.

Wichard's relationship with former North Carolina associate football coach John Blake has been the subject of recent NCAA scrutiny and an N.C. Secretary of State investigation, since Wichard is alleged to have given Blake money in exchange for preferential treatment from players.

"To my knowledge on that whole deal that's going on, I know Gary was best friends with the guy Blake…for years," Freeney said. "They were best friends. That was maybe a situation where (Wichard) helped him out financially, personally, but it was his best friends for years."

Freeney was a first-round draft pick in 2002. He has been selected for five Pro Bowls. He signed a six-year, $72 million deal in 2007.

However, he said his dealings with agents were minimal while in college.

"Maybe Syracuse was too far for somebody to come up," he said. "Maybe it was too cold. I don't know."

But he wasn't surprised to hear about a story detailing payments to players.

"The presence of agents (is) very prevalent in college," he said. "Obviously, the more success a program has, they're going to be around knocking on your door when they think you should be coming out junior year or senior year, what have you. They're around calling you or visiting you once in a while. If they have an in, they will find a way in.

"But (Wichard) has been the most professional of all of them. I never had to run away and say, 'Stop calling my phone.' It hasn't been that way with him."

Notes: Colts coach Jim Caldwell said he was unsure whether either running back Joseph Addai (shoulder/neck) or Donald Brown (hamstring) would be available Sunday at Washington. If not, Mike Hart would get his first career start.

jcohn@jg.net

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