Selected No. 11 overall in the 2002 NFL Draft, the undersized but freakishly quick Freeney was ideally suited for Tony Dungy's Tampa-2 defense.
Although famed for a trademark spin move late in his career, the younger version of Freeney feasted on opposing tackles with one of the most explosive first steps the league had ever seen. Taking advantage of the RCA Dome's speedy synthetic turf, Freeney teamed with longtime bookend Robert Mathis to terrorize opposing quarterbacks forced to pass in shootouts with Peyton Manning.
"Former [Colts general manager] Bill Polian] had seen Dwight and thought he was [exactly the guy I had been talking about," Dungy said of Freeney. "We're sitting at No. 11 in the first round and people looked at his size and thought it was too high to draft him. Bill, to his credit, said, 'If this is going to be the big piece of the puzzle, let's not worry about where we take Dwight and what other people think. Let's get the guy who is going to be the perfect piece.' Dwight was the straw that stirred the drink."
Freeney will retire with 125.5 sacks, tied with Baltimore's Terrell Suggs for 17th on the all-time list. Of the 16 players ahead of him, 11 have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The exceptions include Julius Peppers, DeMarcus Ware, John Abraham and Jared Allen -- four players yet to gain eligibility.
Although his strong Hall of Fame case will face competition from contemporaries such as that fearsome pass-rushing quartet -- as well as Suggs and James Harrison -- we expect Freeney to don a gold jacket someday.