Missouri QB James Franklin following in dad's footsteps
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
9/20/11 at 5:17 AM
Related Story: OU Notebook: Tracking Travis
NORMAN - James Franklin can't wait for Saturday night.
Doesn't matter that he's quarterbacking Missouri against No. 1 Oklahoma, a team bent on payback for last year's stumble in Columbia, in front of fans who haven't witnessed a home loss since he was in eighth grade.
The game is at Owen Field. That's where Franklin's dad, Willie, caught passes from Jack Mildren during the Sooners' corner-turning era of 1970 and '71.
"Yes sir, it has crossed my mind," Franklin said. "I'm almost literally following in my father's footsteps."
There is no "almost" about it.
Franklin has his dad's right arm. Willie didn't just play receiver at OU, he threw the javelin. Rather, he launched the javelin. The thing soared 242 feet, 9 inches one day in '71. It's still a Sooners record.
Willie was strong and agile enough to be an accomplished wrestler. He had the hands and speed to score a couple of big touchdowns during OU's '70 season, a 75-yarder in a 1-point win at Iowa State, and a 10-yarder to tie Nebraska in the fourth quarter in Lincoln.
James inherited the package, apparent from his 851 total yards in Missouri's three games, and from the comments of OU coach Bob Stoops.
"He has excellent size and can run, but he also does an excellent job throwing the football," Stoops said Monday. "I said the same thing a week ago with (Florida State QB) EJ Manuel, a big, strong guy that can run and throw the football. I'm going to say all of the same things this week and it's true. He's a good player, a really good player."
Franklin was good enough for the Sooners to recruit him as an athlete coming out of Lake Dallas High School.
"We used to call him 'Frank the Tank,'" said OU tackle Daryl Williams, a Lake Dallas teammate, "because he'd just bowl over people."
Franklin plowed through OU linebacker Tom Wort during a short touchdown run last year. It was typical of Franklin's cameos in relief of starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Now that Gabbert is a Jacksonville Jaguar, Missouri is Franklin's team. That should make Willie proud.
There is something that should make him prouder.
"In high school, out of all of my friends, James was the closest to perfect," Williams said. "He did everything right, made straight As, treated people with respect, and he tried to make others treat people with respect and act humble.
"He's a very Godly young man."
Willie left the Baltimore Colts after two seasons to become an evangelist. He practiced what he preached when it came to raising his son.
"He raised me to be a Christian man and to set a Christian example," James said. "I understood that was the most important thing in my life, not football."
Franklin never heard a peep about his dad's career, unless friends mentioned it. He'd see Willie in an OU cap while out spreading gospel, see him tease someone in a Texas shirt by saying, "You're a Longhorn. Wouldn't you rather hear it Sooner?"
Otherwise, Willie didn't talk football. He certainly didn't steer his boy to play it.
"I did jump rope and push-ups when I was six," Franklin said. "They kept me active, but never stressed playing sports. When I wanted to play football, I couldn't until I could do 500 push-ups. My dad wanted me to build up my body so I wouldn't get hurt."
Franklin reached his push-ups milestone, strapped on a helmet, and hasn't removed it much since. He says he enjoys football and the spotlight that comes with it. He says he'll really enjoy Saturday night.
"It's a tough environment. There won't be any fans cheering for me," he said. "But it's still going to be a great experience."
Franklin is just a sophomore. His football should take him several exciting places.
And yet, he anticipates the best is still to come.
"I realize that if you're playing football you are put on a pedestal. So I want to use that by reaching out to people and being a big example for them," he said. "That's the number one important thing, not how you play football but how you conduct yourself.
"If I get an opportunity to play pro ball, that would be great. But it's not like my purpose. When I'm done with football, I want to be an evangelist like my dad. I want to try to make a difference in people's lives."
7 p.m. Saturday
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Missouri QB following in dad's footsteps
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Missouri quarterback James Franklin's father, Willie, was a receiver at OU during the 1970 and '71 seasons. JEFF ROBERSON / AP