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A Super Bowl ring, a master’s degree and a family legacy in teaching

Marcus Freeman didn't start out on a path to teaching, but found his calling with the help of his family. Learn more about his story on "Their Calling."

ST PAUL, Minn. — During the month of May, KARE 11 Sunrise is partnering with Box Tops for Education and Black Men Teach Twin Cities to celebrate extraordinary teachers who are statistically underrepresented.

This week we head to St. Paul Public Schools' Galtier Community Elementary, where Principal Marcus Freeman shares his family story.

"My grandmother actually was a teacher," Freeman said. "My great uncle was a principal."

It doesn't end there. Two cousins currently work in the district as assistant principals and principals respectively.

"We kind of call it the family business," Freeman said.

At first, Freeman didn't want to follow suit.

"I wanted to potentially own my own restaurant," he said. "I also wanted to play professional football for like 12 years."

After studying marketing at Notre Dame, Freeman made it to the NFL.

"I did play in a professional league for just one year," he said. "I was at home with my parents after being released by the New York Giants and they had asked like, 'Hey do you want to get a job?'  I had just got cut so I had some money in the bank and I was like, 'No. I'm still going to train and get back into the NFL,' and they talked about, 'How about you look into being a substitute teacher?'"

Freeman's father, Melvin Freeman, taught physical education in St. Paul for more than 30 years. 

"Marcus is a good young man," Melvin Freeman said. "Not because he's my son. He's a good person."

Marcus Freeman's mother also worked in the district as assistant superintendent. He says his parents inspired him to change careers. After earning a short-call substitute teaching license, he filled in for multiple grade levels across St. Paul.

"And really just loved it," he said.

Now with a master's degree and a principal's license, Freeman leads students in the same school district where his parents once worked.

"I'm really trying to teach just being a lifelong learner," Freeman said. "Being able to take risks, being able to challenge yourself, and being okay with being wrong."

Although his football career was cut short, in the year he played for the Giants, the team won the Super Bowl against the undefeated Patriots. He has a Super Bowl ring in addition to his various licenses and degrees.

Credit: KARE 11

"I'm proud of what he has done, what he has achieved out of life so far but I'm telling him not to stop," Melvin Freeman said. "Get that Ph.D."

The Freemans are also sharing a message with top leaders in education, considering fewer than 1% of Minnesota's roughly 65,000 teachers are Black men, according to Black Men Teach Twin Cities.

"They possibly could go and recruit brothers and sisters," Melvin Freeman said. "Go to Howard University, some schools of that nature. Go to the University of Minnesota. Go to St. Thomas. Go and get some more people of color."

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