Published: February 13, 2012
The University of Tampa is saddened by the death of longtime supporter and former football standout Freddie Solomon. The former NFL standout and UT Hall of Famer passed away on Monday.
“We not only lost one of our greatest athletes, but we lost our favorite son,” says UT athletic director Larry Marfise. “This is an extremely sad day for the University of Tampa. Freddie was a person who exemplified what a true Spartan was, never forgetting his roots.
Born in Sumter, S.C., on Jan. 11, 1953, Solomon attended UT where he finished 12th in Heisman Trophy balloting as a senior in 1974. He accounted for 5,803 yards of total offense while rushing for 3,299 yards. Solomon also graduated from UT in 1975.
He was also inducted to the UT Athletics Hall of Fame in 1983 and, in 2002, was honored along with Tino Martinez as the UT Athletes of the Century.
“Freddie went out of his way, above and beyond the call of duty with students in our athletics program in spite of not having football,” comments Marfise. “He made them better citizens and contributors to society. His loyalty and dedication to the University of Tampa was second to none and he is an example of what we should all strive to become.”
A second-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 1975 NFL Draft, Solomon played three seasons with the Dolphins before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers. With the 49ers, Solomon was a part of two Super Bowl championships while being an All-Pro selection in 1980.
Solomon finished his NFL career with 371 receptions, 5,846 yards and 48 touchdowns.
“He was all about caring for individuals and human beings first, and being an athlete second,” states Marfise. “He loved and cared about everyone who was a part of the Spartan family and was extremely loyal and giving, not only financially but giving his time to help make current student-athletes realize the importance of their education.”
On November 30, 2011, about 500 friends, teammates, colleagues and family came to The University of Tampa to honor and celebrate the life of Solomon. Attended by Solomon, the event was hosted by the DeBartolo family, UT and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, where Solomon worked doing community outreach for another UT alum, Sheriff David Gee ’90.
Sports celebrities in attendance included Tino Martinez ’11, Lou Piniella, Ronde Barber and Darryl Strawberry. The event included the NFL Films premiere of “The Legend of Freddie Solomon,” shown in the Falk Theatre.
“I will dearly miss Freddie,” says Marfise. “He was a great friend and mentor. He made me a better person being around him by seeing how much he cared about everyone. He has set an example for our athletic program moving forward. We should all strive to be more like Freddie.”
Freddie is survived by his wife, Delilah (Dee) Solomon. They were married for 33 years.