Aug. 22, 2012
Franklin and ‘Cats continue to compete during camp
By David Boyce
At the conclusion of the spring semester, Northwest Missouri State junior running back James Franklin faced a tug-of-war decision.
On one side were his Bearcat teammates tugging on him to spend the summer in Maryville where we could lift weights, workout and bond for the 2012 season.
A big reason why Northwest has enjoyed nearly two decades of sustained success is because many of the players workout together during the summer.
The origin of the Bearcats pulling out incomparable playoff comebacks in December year after year are kindled in the weight room and hot summer sun of June and July.
Franklin, though, felt a tug stronger than his football family. His biological family needed him. Franklin said he had to get a summer job to help out his family.
“I know that’s a motto I was brought up on,” Franklin said. “You protect your family. But it was a really tough decision when it came down to it. My family was in need of me and needed me to be there. I felt like that was my purpose and what I needed to be doing.
“It was a big decision. Some of my teammates still get after me about it because I wasn’t here for them and going through what they did. But it was something that needed to be done.”
Because Northwest football program preaches family, Franklin wasn’t on an island by himself. He received plenty of support from teammates and friends.
“A lot of people understood what I was doing and they helped me through it. D.J. Gnader was a big part of it,” Franklin said. “He talked to me about it. My roommates, they told me what I needed to do.”
Most importantly, Northwest coach Adam Dorrel understood what Franklin was doing.
“I respect his decision to do it,” Dorrel said. “I felt good because he stayed in contact with myself and some of the guys on the team. I thought he did a good job of getting back here and talking to guys.
“It is not the ideal situation. When you have as many guys as we have who stay up, it doesn’t happen too often.”
Also, Dorrel knew what Franklin provided to the team a year ago when he transferred from Nebraska-Omaha when UNO disbanded its football program.
Franklin, a graduate from Olathe North, did everything asked of him by Northwest and quickly became a key member of the team. He led the team in rushing with 1,247 yards and scored 25 touchdowns, of which 24 came rushing.
Equally impressive was the unselfish way Franklin conducted himself while sharing backfield duties with Jordan Simmons, who is now a senior.
“He was very unselfish last year,” Dorrel said. “I don’t think he got a lot of credit for it or Jordan Simmons. Those kids did a great job of being unselfish with each other.”
Simply put, Franklin was one reason why Northwest went 11-3 and won two NCAA Division II playoff games.
“He made a real positive impact,” Dorrel said. “That is what I told everyone that seemed to be the question everybody was focused on, on what he wasn’t doing this summer. What I kept telling everyone, you have to remember that kid came in last year and did everything we asked him to do.
“He has a real good football IQ. He picks up things quickly. If he makes a mistake, he does a good job fixing it.”
Although a hamstring injury has hampered Franklin in the first week of practice, he is definitely further along than last year when everything was new to him.
“Now that I’m back at practice I pretty much know everything,” Franklin said. “I know what is expected of me. I can help the younger guys figure out what they need to be doing as well as getting my own mental reps.”
So far, Franklin really likes what he sees from his teammates.
“I’ve definitely seen glimpse of greatness, honestly,” Franklin said. “Everybody is moving around and learning what they need to do pretty quickly. I feel that we have a competitive level that is really high. Everybody is competing and wants a spot on the field and that is only going to make us better.”
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