15

June

Johnathan Franklin: Playing in Green Bay a “blessing”

Packers RB Johnathan Franklin

Packers RB Johnathan Franklin

The Green Bay Packers’ rookie class has yet to practice in full pads, but less than two months removed from the 2013 NFL Draft, fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin already seems poised to have a long, successful career.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, a brain surgeon or the mayor of Los Angeles to figure out whether or not a guy “gets it.” And get it, Franklin does.

Growing up in south-central Los Angeles, ten of Franklin’s close acquaintances were shot in killed during his childhood, according to JSOnline.com. But Franklin beat the odds and went on to have a successful four-year run at UCLA.

After racking up over 2,000 total yards as a senior in 2012, Franklin expected to hear his name called early on draft day. But as the picks kept coming, Franklin kept waiting.

“It was a humbling experience for me,” Franklin said June 13 in an interview with Packers Talk Radio Network. “I was hearing probably late first round, early second round or perhaps third at the latest. On (Day 2) I had my family over, I had cameras there and I didn’t get drafted.”

Franklin’s draft-day fall wasn’t quite as dramatic as Aaron Rodgers’ in 2005; Rodgers was the last player in the green room after being mentioned as possible No. 1 overall pick, whereas Franklin watched the draft from L.A. But nonetheless, few foresaw Franklin dropping to the fourth round.

On Day 3 of the draft, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock spoke highly of Franklin, citing UCLA head coach Jim Mora’s high opinion of his former standout running back.

“For coaches, some (players) kind of hit your heart as well as your mind,” Mayock said. “And I could tell with Coach Mora, this was one of those kids that really resonated with him. I could tell him all day long, (Franklin) was going to go in the fourth or fifth round, and he was going to pound the table and say, ‘He’s better than that.’ Because he felt it.”

Still, Franklin feels fortunate to have landed where he did.

“Sometimes, God puts us in certain situations where we have to let go and just let him be in control,” Franklin said. “It was definitely a blessing. I ended up in a great place.”

Green Bay, with a population of about 106,000, is a far cry from Los Angeles — a city of almost four million. But while moving to Wisconsin has undoubtedly been a big adjustment for Franklin, he welcomes the change of scenery.

“There’s no traffic out here in Green Bay,” Franklin said. “That’s a great adjustment for me. It’s definitely a lot slower, but the people are very nice and welcoming … This entire city has been amazing to me.”

Upon arriving in Green Bay, Franklin wasn’t aware that the Packers were a community-owned team. But one doesn’t make it through four years of major college football without hearing of the Packers’ unique and colorful history. And after the likes of Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr and Brett Favre, many hear the words “Green Bay” and immediately think of the not-so-green climate. They think of the frozen tundra.

For a west-coast guy like Franklin, coming to a region where the locals consider 45 degrees worthy of shorts and a T-shirt, the weather will certainly take some getting used to.

“I don’t think I’ve ever even seen snow before, so that’s definitely going to be something new for me,” Franklin said. “I played a bowl game in D.C. and it was about 14 degrees … I couldn’t wait for the game to end, the field was frozen solid, it was terrible.”

UCLA defeated Temple 30-21 in the 2009 EagleBank Bowl despite frigid temperatures. Franklin will need to grow tolerant of the cold weather if he’s going to remain in Green Bay long-term, but the field conditions at Lambeau Field are far better than those at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.

This season, the Packers hope to become a more complete offense for the playoff push in the winter months. And by drafting Alabama running back Eddie Lacy in the second round and Franklin in the fourth, the Packers hope they’ve added a physical ground game to complement their potent air attack.

Lacy, a 5-foot-11, 230-pound bruiser, figures to help solve the Packers’ short-yardage woes, while Franklin adds more of a home-run threat on the perimeter. Both players will likely be a part of the offense, but they’ll also be competing with one another for touches.

“Eddie is a great player, and he’s a great guy,” Franklin said. “He’s been my roommate for the past month … They brought us in here to contribute to Green Bay, regardless of who’s playing more and who’s not playing. We have to make this team better.”

Leading up to the draft, the primary concern over Lacy was the condition of his toe. For Franklin, the questions regarding ball security were prevalent, while some wondered whether he would be reliable in pass protection.

But the rookie is aware that he has a lot to learn, and if he can’t be counted upon to protect the quarterback, Franklin knows he won’t be on the field.

“Running back is not just about running, and it’s not just about catching,” Franklin said. “It’s about blocking, it’s about doing everything … You have to be a complete back to play in this offense and this league. Blocking is required, and if you can’t do it, you won’t be here for a long time.”

But if the first impressions are accurate, Franklin will be around Green Bay for a while. Having already risen above a gang-heavy L.A. neighborhood to the NFL, Franklin enters the professional ranks with lofty aspirations and the right attitude.

Many people never make it out of the inner-city cycle that’s become all too common in certain urban areas, but Franklin kept looking ahead and focused on achieving his goals. On draft day, 124 players heard their name called before Franklin came off the board, but despite having hopes of being drafted earlier, Franklin simply said he’s “thankful” to have even been drafted at all.

One day, Franklin hopes to have a career in politics. Whether he’s the mayor of Los Angeles or in Green Bay, that chapter of his life will have to wait. Because while the Packers offense has been starving for balance, Franklin has been anxiously awaiting an opportunity like the one he now has before him.

“Being in LA, you have so much going on, so you really don’t have that football town or community that loves the game,” Franklin said. “I’ve been dreaming of being in a community like this since I was a kid. Everywhere you go, it’s Green Bay Packers.”

So far, he’s saying all the right things. This summer, all eyes will be on Franklin to see if he’s as impressive in pads as he is in an interview.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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19 Responses to “Johnathan Franklin: Playing in Green Bay a “blessing””

  1. Oppy says:

    Well, with quotes like, ““Being in LA, you have so much going on, so you really don’t have that football town or community that loves the game. I’ve been dreaming of being in a community like this since I was a kid. Everywhere you go, it’s Green Bay Packers,” it’s easy to see why the Packers liked this kid…

    TT and his scouting department always talk about trying to bring in “football guys”, and why not? If they are more than just gifted athletes- if they LOVE the game, LOVE the craft, eat, sleep, and breathe football, that’s more than half of what it takes to achieve success.. They are guys who show up early to practice, love to talk philosophy of schemes, and run drills to improve the smallest movement to perfect their craft.

    Gotta love it.

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  2. Lucas says:

    31 teams passed on him multiple times probably because of needs based decisions. What is the knock on him? Lightning in a bottle…ability to turn any touch into an explosive play…what an addition.
    All I can figure is that teams don’t trust him when the ball is not in his hands.

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  3. Batavia Greg says:

    What a great draft pick by TT!! I have seen Johnathan Franklin play and had heard only wonderful things about his character and leadership when he was a student at UCLA. I hope that he has a long,fantastic, and serious injury-free professional career. He truly is a nice young man.

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  4. I bleed Green More says:

    Its been a long time since we had this potential in running back talent. I am just getting my grandson interested he reminds me of me 60 plus years ago.

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  5. Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

    Great interview by Marques, Kris, and Jason. Also a great article. It will be exciting to follow Franklin this year.

    Well done!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

    • Marques Eversoll Marques Eversoll says:

      Thanks, Chad! Hard not to be impressed by Franklin from what we’ve heard so far.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Archie says:

    Lacy = Emmit Smith (who also fell in the draft (from a top 5 to low 20s)).

    Franklin = Warrick Dunn

    I’m guessing Pack keeps Lacy & Green as their big backs and Harris & Franklin as their change of pace backs. As much as I like Starks, his inability to stay on the field really frustrated McCarthy last year so he is the longshot, barring injuries. Another possibility would be to cut Kuhn and let Green play FB. At #225 he is big enough to do it. Would also give us better running/receiving threat than Kuhn.

    Can’t wait to watch Lacy dominate on the ground. A smart QB like Rodgers will switch between pass/run plays at LOS to optimize production of offense.
    When defenses start playing 8 in the box, we will know Lacy fills the bill.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

    • MarkJohn says:

      It is way to early to anoint the rookie RBs as in the same class as Smith and Dunn; however, I hope you are right! ;)

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    • Stroh says:

      I don’t see the comparison of Lacy to Smith. I’ve heard it other places too and just don’t see the similarity. Lacy is much more a power runner, while Smith, while not big or fast, was elusive. If you just go by 40 times maybe, but they just don’t run the same.

      I would say the Franklin/Dunn comparison is solid, except that Dunn was faster and IMO a little more elusive. I do think they look similar and have similar running styles tho.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

      • steve cheez says:

        If we could get the O-Line Smith had, it probably wouldn’t matter who we put in the backfield

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  7. JR says:

    I love this kid! I think he was the best value pick that the Pack had in this draft.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. FITZCORE1252 says:

    I am SOOO effing impressed with this kid! Ten years from now I think Lacy will be largely forgotten, Franklin on the other hand… Well, I think GREEN BAY PACKER fans will look to him as our best back since Ahman. Call me crazy… Dude has IT.

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  9. the real russ letlow says:

    I think Johnathan franklin will make Packers fans proud on and off the field. He has all the makings of a great young man.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Stroh says:

    I like Franklin he seems like a good kid. But to be honest I’m far more pumped about Lacy. He’ll bring a physicality to the Offense that the Packers sorely need. On both sides of the ball to be honest… Franklin will make the Packers more of the same finesse play, which has its place too. But Lacy is the guy the Packers need to step up and give the offense a toughness that we need for late season and playoff football.

    Happy to have both, but Lacy is the guy we need.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  11. Razer says:

    I am just glad that we finally have some talent in the backfield. Between Harris, Lacy and Franklin, we should be able to build a run game that forces people to respect the two-headed monster.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. bruin fan says:

    UCLA season ticket holder here. #23′s senior season was amazing. for some reason in the draft the pundits were citing his fumbling. i couldnt believe it. His ball protection was incredible his final year. It was more of a sophomore issue. That tells me right there these guys dont watch west coast games.

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