BY CORY NIDOH
Assistant Sports Editor
On January 11, Penn State hired James Franklin, former Vanderbilt Football head coach and East Stroudsburg University Alumni, to fill the head coach position for the Nittany Lions.
“James Franklin is a proven commodity as a head coach with all his accomplishments at Vanderbilt. His leadership, integrity and competitive spirit make him a perfect fit for Penn State,” said Kirk Herbstreit ESPN and ABC college football analyst.
There were many other speculated candidates—Mike Munchak, Hall of Famer offensive lineman who played for Penn State, Al Golden, head coach of Miami University, and Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State’s defensive coordinator.
Franklin emerged as the favorite, after seeing his name all over national media as the next big thing in college football head coaching.
Franklin replaces former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, who took an offer to be the head coach for the Houston Texans in the NFL.
The former Warrior had to wait to be a candidate and land what he said is “his dream job.”
The Langhorne, PA native graduated from ESU in 1995 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.
The former dual-threat signal caller for ESU football head coach Denny Douds was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in school history.
As a senior, Franklin was 6 in the nation in total offense with 312.9 yards per game. He threw for 2,586 yards and 14 touchdowns and also ran for 543 yards while finding the end zone seven times.
With his remarkable senior season on the gridiron, Franklin became the first PSAC QB to throw for 2500 yards and rush for 500 yards in a season.
Upon graduation, he worked at another PSAC football program at Kutztown University as a wide receivers coach and then came back to his alma mater in 1996 to be a defensive backs coach.
After leaving ESU, Franklin climbed through the ranks of college football.
From 1997-04, he bounced around between NCAA Division I FCS and the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) making stops at James Madison, Washington State, Idaho State, and Maryland. At Maryland, Franklin spent four years as the wide receivers coach.
Following the 2004 season, Franklin got his first taste of the NFL as he joined the Green Bay Packers coaching staff for the 2005 season.
The next two seasons from 2006-07, Franklin found a new home as the Kansas State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
From 2008-10 he returned to Maryland as the offensive coordinator. 2011-13 marked the first time Franklin would call his own shots when he became the head coach for Vanderbilt.
A year before Franklin got to Vanderbilt their football team went 2-10 in 2010 and was a perennial bottom feeder in the SEC. The ESU alum tripled the Commodore’s win total in his debut season with a 6-7 record.
The following two years, Franklin put the university back on the map after the team posted back-to-back 9-4 records and had two winning bowl appearances.
Now, the 41-year-old coach has returned to the Keystone state where he first started his coaching career.
“I’m a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart,” said Franklin at the official press conference where he was introduced as the sixteenth head coach for Penn State.
When asked why Franklin wanted to stay in college despite drawing interest from NFL teams he said, “I’m a college guy—a relationship kind of guy. You’re not going to find a coach that cares more about their players than me and their complete development.”
Franklin made it very clear that the measurement of development of his players doesn’t mean just on the field but off the field as well in being a student-athlete and a role model in the community.
“Our academic philosophy is that this is a place where a young man can have it all, a world class education, play football at a very high level and reach all his dreams.”
The new head coach also brings his successful recruiting philosophy to the program. Many in the sport believe Franklin is one of the best recruiters in the game.
“He is an outstanding communicator and that parlays into being a great recruiter. He was one of the nation’s top recruiters when he was at Maryland, continued that at Vanderbilt and will surely bring that to Penn State,” said Douds.
Franklin seems very confident in his own ability to recruit as well.
“We are going to dominate the state and dominate the region,” the enthusiastic Franklin said at the press conference.
Penn State now has an attractive coach that knows how to recruit well and is a native of PA who can help draw local high school athletes to commit to Penn State and wear the navy blue and white.
Surrounding big schools such as Pittsburgh, Temple, Rutgers, Maryland, Syracuse and others are going to have trouble trying to compete with Franklin and the Nittany Lions with recruiting.
Penn State has a lot to look forward to in the upcoming years. PSU finished last year with a 7-5 record overall and a 4-4 record in conference play which placed them third in the Leaders division in the Big 10.
They had the top quarterback in last year’s class in Christian Hackenberg, who was a true freshman a year ago, and are a young team in which Franklin can impose his coaching styles, philosophies and his demeanor to build powerful teams in the coming years.
Not only is Franklin a very smart, passionate and resilient man on and off the field, but a mentor and community leader.
He is a blue collared man coaching a blue collared team in a blue collar town.
Franklin went through all the stops needed to reach the top.
From small Division II schools such as East Stroudsburg and Kutztown, to big time colleges such as Maryland, Vanderbilt and Penn State to the cream of the crop in reaching the NFL briefly.
Franklin represents that it doesn’t matter how big or how popular the college is that a student may attend, but what matters is how much heart, passion and determination a student possesses in order to achieve their dreams.
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