Charleston Southern's Demaris Freeman set for football under the lights

Charleston Southern's Demaris Freeman (right) was the Bucs' leading tackler last season with 90. (Paul Zoeller/Staff/File)

When Charleston Southern kicks off the football season Thursday night in the first-ever night game at Buccaneer Field, senior Demaris Freeman can say he has almost seen it all.

About the only thing missing in Freeman's career at Charleston Southern is a Big South Conference championship. That's something the 6-0, 214-pound safety is hoping to close his career out with later this season.

On Thursday, The Bucs host Point University (West Point, Ga.) at 7 p.m. It is the first of four consecutive night games at CSU.

Freeman is beginning his fifth season as a member of the Buccaneer program. He was a sophomore on CSU's 2011 team that finished 0-11. He was injured early in the 2012 campaign, earning a redshirt during a 5-6 season.

One could say Freeman enjoyed a breakout season last fall, right along with his teammates. Freeman was CSU's leading tackler with 90 total tackles, earning second-team all-conference honors in CSU's historic 10-3 season.

"I've been able to see us at our worst and our best and I have used all of my experiences to grow as a person," said Freeman, who came to CSU from West Palm Beach, Fla. "It has been an awesome experience to see the changes that are happening. We're playing night games and we have a new locker room, which is great. We have a new coaching staff and a new attitude. There are a lot of positive things happening here and I'm just proud to be a part of it."

Freeman played in eight games during his freshman season of 2010. That CSU team won three games. Those teams of 2010 and 2011 may have lacked strong leadership, something that Freeman is taking seriously as he opens his fifth season.

"I know leadership is important and I take my role seriously," he said. "I've been here a long time and I have seen a lot. I know that I can help the younger guys understand what it takes to be a successful player. I think it means a lot to hear it from other players, not only the coaches.

"The new guys don't know or understand the struggles that we went through a few years ago. It's hard for them to understand what being 0-11 is like. The older guys that went through it, we tell them all the time. We have to work hard and stay together. We don't want to experience anything like that again."

The senior class this season is rather small. Freeman is one of 15 seniors on the roster. Head coach Jamey Chadwell says seniors like Freeman are the glue that holds the team together.

"We are still a fairly young football team" said Chadwell. "I think last year we had 12 seniors. We are still building our numbers and trying to build towards having 20 seniors every year.

"These seniors, they have been great leaders. They went through 0-11 and they remember it. For these guys to stick through that and continue to work and play, I think it says a lot about the type of young men they have grown to be."

As for the season opener under the lights, Freeman admits he can hardly contain his excitement.

"For me, it's like playing on Friday nights in high school," he said. "I think night games bring more energy to the crowd and to the players. We are pumped about getting lights. I never thought when I came here I would be playing night games here. It just shows the way the program is growing."