Mizzou's Franklin focused on the future
It took a couple of seconds of reflection when Mizzou quarterback James Franklin was asked if he would change anything about his past.
"I wouldn't have listened as much to the coaches that told me I was too big to be a college quarterback," said Franklin. "I didn't start playing quarterback until I was a junior in high school. I made it now."
Overcoming obstacles is nothing new for the Tigers' senior signal caller who was in town as a guest speaker for the Dining for Diabetes event held in Monett on Jan. 19.
"My parents told me to stand for what I believed in, but stand in a graceful way," said Franklin. "I believed I could be a college quarterback."
At 6'2," 228 pounds, Franklin appears to be more of a bruising running back than a precision passing field general. He has no problem with tucking the ball and running over, not around, opposing defenders.
Famed Missouri radio broadcaster Mike Kelly popularized the nickname "Frank the Tank" when describing one of these runs during a broadcast.
Franklin has accepted his role as a non-prototypical quarterback. He even adopted the twitter account name @JFrankTank1.
"When I was being recruited by colleges, they all had me designated as an athlete, which means they wanted me as a running back or receiver," said Franklin. "Missouri was the only school that wanted me as a quarterback."
Franklin's style of on-field play is a cross-section of two of Mizzou's recent outstanding quarterbacks, Brad Smith and Chase Daniel.
While not as fast as Smith or as accurate as Daniel, Franklin has established himself at the top of the Tigers' depth chart.
"It took my freshman year to adjust to the speed of the college game," said Franklin. "Everything moved much more quickly."
Just when things appeared to be slowing down for Franklin, the University of Missouri left the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
The SEC is known for its fierce gridiron passion and football success. The last six national champions belong to this dominant organization.
Of the 212 NFL players who played in the conference title games on Jan. 20, 90 hailed from the SEC.
"When you hear people talk about the SEC being 'bigger, stronger and faster,' they aren't exaggerating," said Franklin. "I dealt with some injuries this year, but the challenge of conference play is something I look forward to."
Many people use phrases like "it's me against the world" or "the world is always against me" to describe everyday pressure and situations. Franklin knows the feeling.
On a weekly basis during the football season, Franklin performs in front of tens of thousands of rabid opposing fans who are hoping, cheering and rooting for his failure.
"My dad prepared me for handling the large crowds," said Franklin. "When the game is going on I am able to clear out all of the distractions and get into a zone."
This type of pressure is only one of hundreds of hurdles that Franklin has to continually clear.
During the past season, the Missouri quarterback was bitten by the injury bug and missed three games due to his injuries.
Frankiln lost his offensive coordinator, David Yost, and now will receive his play calls from Yost's replacement Josh Henson.
To top off the list of concerns, Franklin will be pushed in spring practice by backup quarterbacks Corbin Berkstresser, who filled in when Franklin was injured, and red shirt freshman Marty Mauk.
Mauk holds national high school records for passing attempts, completions, yardage and touchdowns. He played his high school ball in a wide-open spread offense.
A Mizzou fan doesn't have to go far back in history to find a freshman beating a senior for the starting quarterback job. It happened in 2002 when Smith beat out Kirk Farmer.
Yet, despite the pressure, Franklin takes things one step at a time.
"I simply focus on being the best that I can be," said Franklin. "I trust that the coach will call the best play for us to be successful. I am a competitor.
|"People criticize me for showing a 'lack of fire or passion' on the field," continued Franklin. "I choose not to let my emotions control me. I let my play speak for itself."|
Franklin had kind words to say about playing with Springfield native Dorial Green-Beckham.
"He's a hard worker," said Franklin. "He likes to have the ball. The more time he spends in the offense, the better he understands the position. With his speed, he will always be dangerous on the field."
Franklin stated that his passion for football came from his father.
"More than anything else my dad made the game fun," said Franklin. "He never forced me to play and always gave me the choice. I never felt pressured to perform.
"He had me jumping rope when I was 6 years old and doing 200 pushups every day when I was 8," continued Franklin. "He was my motivator, but he made everything part of training fun and exciting."
The future for Missouri's field general is bright. He isn't stressed about the upcoming season. He isn't worried about his "draft stock."
"I want to become a public speaker or an evangelist for the Church of Christ," said Franklin. "I want to be a positive influence in the lives of those I come into contact. My faith gives me hope to succeed, and I want to share that message."