<
>

New number meaningful to Freeman

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Devonta Freeman was supposed to switch from jersey No. 33 to No. 24 the other day, but he appeared at practice earlier this week in the same No. 33 jersey.

Then on Friday, Freeman made the switch to No. 24, as expected. He wanted to do it a while ago, but cornerback Jordan Mabin wore it until he was cut last Friday.

So what's the significance? There's actually a great story behind it. Freeman desired the jersey No. 24 to honor his late aunt, Tamekia N. Brown, who died of a heart attack at the age of 24 back in Freeman's hometown of Miami. Freeman was 14 years old at the time.

He has her name tattooed on his left arm.

"She meant so much to me," Freeman said. ``She was like the world to me. She was one of the younger aunties that I had, so we used to relate the most. We were real close. And she did my dreads before she passed away. She's just my favorite."

Freeman, who wore the No. 8 jersey in high school and in college at Florida State, wanted to wear the No. 24 jersey with the Seminoles. However, it was unavailable as teammate Terrance Smith, a linebacker from Atlanta, wore No. 24 in honor of his late father, former Clemson star "Touchdown Terry" Smith.