Laremy Tunsil sends letter to his former coach Hugh Freeze

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Hugh Freeze says he hasn't spoken to former Ole Miss star Laremy Tunsil since the NFL draft, but he has received a letter from him.

Draft night on April 28 in Chicago went from a great moment for Freeze to a nightmare very quickly. Shortly before the draft, someone posted a video on Twitter of Tunsil smoking an unknown substance from a bong while wearing a gas mask. Once considered a potential No. 1 pick, Tunsil fell sharply after the video was posted.

After Tunsil was finally selected with the 13th pick by the Miami Dolphins, someone posted an alleged text message conversation between Tunsil and Ole Miss assistant athletics director John Miller in which Tunsil asks Miller for money.

Freeze had a message for Tunsil after he was selected.

"This is just draft day, this is not draft career," Freeze relayed to ESPN's Marty Smith in an interview at Ole Miss on Monday. "You can decide how it ends."

Draft night had started as a celebration of Ole Miss' rise to national prominence.

"Well, you want to celebrate for sure," Freeze said. "You're there with three first-round draft picks, which was our first eligible class to go, but it certainly took a turn for something I never imagined happening.

"When that first episode happened with Laremy, he's like your child. When my child makes a mistake, I don't run from it. I don't hide from it. I certainly don't approve of the mistakes that were always made, but you're not going to stop loving them. So you go into, any coach goes into, the mode that I'm going to help this family through it. So that's really the mode I went into, is just trying to do anything I could to help them through that difficult time."

But Tunsil and Freeze went their separate ways as the coach and Ole Miss dealt with NCAA violations.

According to the NCAA notice of allegations, which Ole Miss received on Jan. 22, the Ole Miss football program was accused of 13 rules violations, including eight that were determined to be the most serious Level I. Nine of the 13 allegations levied against the Rebels occurred under Freeze, including four Level I violations. Tunsil was named in three of the more serious allegations made by the NCAA.

In late May, Ole Miss announced that it had self-imposed the loss of 11 scholarships in football over a four-year period from 2015-18.

Freeze said Monday that about three weeks ago he received a letter from Tunsil. He was asked what was in the message.

"His sincere love for me. That's probably all I should say," Freeze said.

Describing the tone of it, he said: "There was a sweetness to it, but I knew that's who he was. He's a good kid, has a good heart."

As for the turmoil surrounding the Ole Miss program, Freeze said that "the personal attacks on your character are tough for your family to take," but he added that he couldn't comment on an ongoing investigation. He said he has received words of encouragement from many coaches, including Nick Saban (Alabama), Les Miles (LSU), Gus Malzahn (Auburn) and Jim Grobe (Baylor).

Like he did in May, Freeze took responsibility for mistakes that were made but looked forward to the school getting to tell its side of the story to the NCAA Infractions Committee. He said that when all the facts come out, he thinks the critics might tone down, but he knows that he might not be able to convince everyone and he's at peace with that.

Still, the process has taken a toll.

"I promised myself I would never get callous in this job, but I do see how it can make you that way," Freeze said. Asked how close he was to being callous, he said with a laugh: "I'm pretty close."

Information from ESPN's Mark Schlabach was used in this report.

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