College football commentators will often throw around the term true freshman. The trouble is many football fans do not know what this term means.
A true freshman in football is a player that is competing in their first year of school. Alternatively, a redshirt freshman is a player that is playing their first year of sports but not their first year of school.
Being a true freshman that is able to get playing time on a college football team is quite an impressive feat.
Many football players are not able to make the jump from high school to college football. These players will either redshirt or spend the first year or two on the bench.
True freshmen that are able to get playing time are usually very talented athletes. Since these players are straight out of high school they are often smaller and weaker than most of their college competition.
This makes it even more impressive if these players are able to perform. With players redshirting some college football players are going to be in their mid-twenties.
Playing against players at the age of eighteen or nineteen is quite a challenge.
Differences between a freshman and a true freshman?
When talking about college football there are a few different terms regarding freshmen that can get a little confusing.
A freshman in college sports typically refers to someone who is in their first year of athletic eligibility.
College athletes are only able to play college sports for a number of years until they age out.
A true freshman as we covered earlier is a player that is playing his/her first year of sports in his/her first year of school.
While a freshman can refer to anyone who is playing in their first year of sports at college.
To more easily identify these types of players the term true freshman and redshirt freshman are used.
If an athlete is a redshirt freshman this means that they have redshirted a year and attended classes but did not participate in their sport.
If they are a true freshman they are playing sports and attending classes in their first year of school.
Why do players redshirt?
Now that you know that players often forgo their first year of sports and opt to redshirt, you may be wondering why they do it.
One of the main reasons that players decide to redshirt and not become true freshmen is due to their size and strength.
Coming into college sports out of high school often means these athletes aren’t going to have the size to compete.
Spending one more year in the gym getting bigger and stronger is often enough time to get these players up to speed. This way they do not burn out a year of eligibility when they are not at a level at which they can perform effectively.
Another reason a player may not be a true freshman is that they would not get any playing time.
Say a freshman shows up to football camp and finds the starter in his position is going to be drafted to the NFL the next year. A freshman is never going to beat this player out to get time on the field.
Instead, the freshman will spend the year on the bench waiting for the following season when the starter is gone.
Players will often see situations like this and decide to redshirt for their first year.
This way they can wait for a position to open up in the starting lineup without burning one of their years of eligibility.