Sumter renames field after football great Freddie Solomon

10/26/2013 7:10 AM

03/14/2015 8:04 AM

Delilah "Dee" Solomon never got to see her late husband, Freddie, play a down of football at Sumter Memorial Stadium.

On Friday, she was able to see what those who did see Solomon play on that field thought of him, not only as an athlete, but as a man as well.

The Sumter Memorial Stadium field was dedicated as Freddie Solomon Field to honor the Sumter High School great during a ceremony prior to SHS' football game against Carolina Forest.

"This was such a humbling event," Dee said of the ceremony, which began next to the stadium press box where a monument honoring Freddie was unveiled and concluded on the newly dedicated Freddie Solomon Field. "I didn't meet Freddie until he was in college (at the University of Tampa in Tampa, Fla.), and he never really talked about his high school days. When we'd visit Sumter, his family and friends would tell me about the amazing things he did.

"So it's special to now have this (field) named after him."

Solomon's senior year of high school was the first year of Sumter High's existence. Desegregation brought together the student bodies from all-black Lincoln High School and overwhelmingly white Edmunds High School for the 1970-71 school year.

Solomon quickly became the first star for Sumter High, rushing for 1,969 yards and 28 touchdowns on 208 carries during the 9-3 season. He went on to an NCAA record-setting career as a quarterback at Tampa and an 11-year career as a wide receiver in the National Football League in which he had 371 catches and won two Super Bowls starting for the San Francisco 49ers.

"Freddie was the finest football player I ever saw," said Vin Hoover, a teammate of Solomon for four years at Tampa and a friend for the remainder of his life. "I played with 10 first-round (NFL draft) picks, and Freddie (a second-round selection of the Miami Dolphins in '75) was the finest player I ever played with. If he would have been at Oklahoma, he would have won the Heisman Trophy."

Hoover's admiration for Solomon, who passed away in February of 2012 after a bout with cancer, went beyond his exploits on the football field.

"Freddie was a wonderful, outstanding man," Hoover said. "He was my friend and he taught me how to be a man. You should be proud to have him as part of your community."

Steve Satterfield, the SHS head coach who happened upon Freddie Solomon Jr. during spring practice prior to the '70 season, echoed Hoover's sentiments.

"Freddie's athletic ability doesn't come close to matching to what he has done with his ministry," Satterfield said.

Solomon's "ministry" was working with at-risk children in the Tampa area through the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department. He began doing that soon after he retired from the NFL in 1985 and returned to live in Tampa.

Solomon made such an impact on the community that he had a sheriff's department annex named after him and was honored with a tribute ceremony by the University of Tampa a few weeks prior to his death. The Tampa community now has the Freddie Solomon Boys & Girls Club, which will be operated by Dee.

"I feel like I know all of you because Freddie always talked about Sumter," said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee, who was in attendance along with several of his deputies. "He loved being from Sumter and telling people about it. It's really something to be here and on this field where he played."

Freddie's brother, Richard, spoke on behalf of the family and thanked those who worked on having the field named after him and the ceremony as well. He thanked current Sumter School District superintendent Frank Baker as well as former superintendent Randolph Bynum. Bynum was the superintendent when the District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name the field Freddie Solomon Field in February this year.

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