Williamsburg, Ky. – University of the Cumberlands’ (UC) adjunct instructor of religion and exquisite role model for students, Dr. Travis Freeman, has outlived the odds and is prospering in the Lord’s name. Not only has he touched lives at UC but he has also caught the attention of movie producers. His unconditional love for football and faith in Christ gave him motivation after developing meningitis and becoming totally blind and because of this, people see him as a true life inspiration. Freeman, member of Central Baptist Church in Corbin, will be the star role in the upcoming movie ’23 Blast.’
About a year after Freeman finished his Ph.D. in Expository Preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he came to UC during the spring of 2013 to be an adjunct instructor of religion. He encourages students to engage, discuss, learn, and ask for help from their professors. Freeman is grateful for the opportunity he has been given to teach at UC. It is important to him to be able to teach, tell his story, and point people to the most important story of all, Jesus Christ.
“I am thankful that Dr. Taylor and the UC administration have given me this opportunity to teach because many people assume that people, who can’t see, can’t do anything,” said Freeman. “They’ve given me this chance to share my experiences, teach, and hopefully inspire my students. I’m beyond grateful for that. I love UC and the most rewarding part about teaching is when I am able to observe my students processing new material and they are challenged to think in ways they have never thought before.”
Freeman was forced to be challenged at the tender age of twelve as he experienced a new way of life when he lost his sight. The Corbin native was the typical middle school boy whose life was consumed by football and friends. He began experiencing excruciating migraines that lasted days at a time, sinus pressure caused by sinus infections and uncomfortable pain in his left eye. The doctors assured his parents that it was minor and dismissed the issue multiple times. His parents would not give up and were determined to find answers. He was finally diagnosed with Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis, and had emergency surgery to remove the infection that had formed behind his eye which left him completely blind in both eyes. This type of infection Freeman contracted is deadly and kills nearly 70% of people affected and usually leaves the remaining 30% in a vegetated state. He was lucky and pulled through thanks to a community of prayers and the grace of God. His case is the second case in the world where only the eyes were affected. Even though he was only twelve years old, he still tried to maintain a positive outlook on life and he had his friends and parents by his side to support him and keep him from giving up. What he still wanted more than anything was to play football.
“When I first lost my sight, I didn’t want my friends to come to the hospital and see me like that,” said Freeman. “But Jerry Baker, my friend and starting quarterback on our football team, came to the hospital anyway and spent the day with me. It was Jerry who helped me get back into my group of friends after I lost my sight. This was the first point I realized I was going to be okay.”
He continued to play football throughout the rest of his middle school career and he continued through high school. With the help and motivation given to him by Coach Farris, he played the position of center on the Corbin High School Redhounds football team. “I owe a lot of who I am to Coach Farris,” admitted Freeman. “He believed in me and made me believe I could overcome. That is what helped me take the next step.” His teammates would help him and tell him where to go during the plays of the game. They were always trying to help protect him which is true team work.
Throughout this trying time for Freeman, he always looked to God for answers and relied on Him to lead the way. He was blessed to have an amazing support system from his family, friends, community, and CHS family. He grew particularly close to his uncle who had been paralyzed since he was a young adult due to a tragic mining accident. They had a bond and were able to share life experiences, struggles, and triumphs with one another. “He would never allow me to get down,” said Freeman.
Years after high school, he received a phone call from Toni Hoover, the mother of his friend and former Redhounds teammate, Bram Hoover. She wanted to create her first screen playwright about his life. He agreed to it but there had been many attempts by numerous producers in the past who were after the same thing but they never escalated into anything other than a phone call. A few years later, Ms. Hoover had her producers and directors ready and they were taking action on the film they called, “23 Blast.”
Bram Hoover, who is no stranger to the camera, carefully selected the characters alongside his mother and director Dylan Baker. Bram is playing the role of Travis’ inspirational and ‘live for the moment’ friend, the late Jerry Baker, and the role of Travis is being portrayed by actor, Mark Hapka. The movie’s title was adopted from an old high school football play they used which they called, “23 Blast.” The film crew swarmed the small town of Corbin and got the entire community involved when it came to needing extras to fill the football stadium. The love for Travis and his family was very apparent during this time.
“I’m extremely excited and nervous about the movie,” said Freeman. “I think it will be a good movie though. It’s an honor to think that someone felt my story was worthy of something like this. I hope it allows me to get out and tell the real story which leads to the ultimate story…Christ. There is something beyond this world and I am not going to be blind forever. I want to use ’23 Blast’ as a platform and the publicity from it to ultimately share this story with people who are depressed and struggling and point them to the hope of Christ.”
The inspiring movie based on Travis Freeman’s life, “23 Blast”, will be in Corbin’s Tri-County Cineplex on September 19th and at the Knoxville Film Festival September 22nd. Tickets can be reserved online for the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis which will also be showing the film.
Although many view Dr. Travis Freeman as a hero, he remains humbled throughout everything. He says that he is just a regular guy living his life. He is enjoying his teaching experience at the University of the Cumberlands and hopes to make it his permanent home. Freeman knows that Christ is the one to credit for all of his success and teaching religion to UC students is the perfect place for him to share his amazing testimony and be a witness in God’s holy name.
“By the grace of God, I was able to just embrace my illness which led to me becoming blind,” said Freeman. “I never really went through any type of depression. I simply realized that this is life and said ‘let’s go with it.’ I never blamed God or even asked why. I hope my story will be able to get out to people and will able to help those who are struggling in life to find peace and comfort in God’s word.”
Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees in more than 40 major fields of study; 10 pre-professional programs; ten graduate degrees distributed over eight areas, including two doctorates and seven master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs. For more information visit www.ucumberlands.edu.
by Jennifer Wake-Floyd, University of the Cumberlands