LYNCHBURG, Va. – (Courtesy of Liberty Athletics)
Every member of Liberty's football team is asked to live out the program's motto for 2019, #TougherTogether, and Head Football Coach Hugh Freeze is leading by example.
Less than a week after undergoing back surgery that was complicated by an infection, Freeze surprised his players by returning to the practice field on Friday.
Early on during the team's planned two-hour workout, Freeze joined his squad for the first time in nearly two weeks inside the Liberty Indoor Practice Facility with the help of a golf cart.
Quickly, Freeze's 100-plus player roster realized their leader was back and the Flames swarmed his vehicle.
After sharing an update about his journey, an emotional Freeze thrilled his players by giving them the rest of the day off by blowing his whistle to close practice for the rest of the day.
The team will take to the turf at Williams Stadium tomorrow for a mock game, preparing the Flames for their season opener against No. 22 Syracuse at Williams Stadium on Aug. 31
Earlier in the day, Freeze gathered with the local media from the first floor conference room at the Fairfield Inn and Suites that overlooks the Liberty University campus. The Marriott property will serve as Freeze's home base during the remainder of his recovery process.
Freeze was released from the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Va., Wednesday afternoon.
"This administration is excited for the season like we are and here I am feeling like I can't give my best and that's been the toughest challenge," Freeze said. "I think I've led our staff extremely well even through this but I don't feel like I've had the ability to lead our team the way I want to."
Thanks to the efforts of the Liberty University Information Technology team, Freeze's room at the Fairfield Inn and Suites is equipped with TVs and computers that allow him to watch a live feed of Liberty's daily practices and communicate with his coaching staff during the practice sessions.
Additionally, the football staff is to holding several of its daily staff meetings at the hotel until he returns to the office, keeping their head coach up to date on the team's progress as they prepare for their season-opener in eight days.
Due to severe back spasms, Freeze started missing August Training Camp practices on Sunday, Aug. 11. Conditions for Freeze worsened throughout the week and he underwent back surgery on Friday, Aug. 16.
Freeze provided full details of his surgery and the recovery process in a report filed by Chris Low on ESPN.com on Saturday, Aug. 17.
Freeze addressed his football team about the recovery process during a team meeting on Sunday, Aug. 18 via a live video feed from his hospital bed. He also provided a video message to a supportive Flames Nation on Tuesday, Aug. 20, sharing his steps to recovery.