In Part II of our interview, new Penn State coach James Franklin talks about his role as an ambassador, the long-term future for the Nittany Lions, recruiting and more.
And if you missed Part I with Franklin, you can read it here.
Your predecessor talked about not liking to play the role of ambassador there. You seem to really embrace that role. Why?
JF: I think a couple things. That is part of my personality, No. 1. And, No. 2, being at a place like Vanderbilt and the situation I was in, it was very, very good training for the situation I’m in right now. All the different things we did to help build that program -- we’re very proud of it, and I had an unbelievable experience at Vanderbilt; I love those players and it was hard to leave them -- but I think that experience has also helped prepare me for this.
I’m definitely a people person. I love people. I love interacting. I love relationships. I love the kids. I love recruiting, I like to get to know people. I find it fascinating to get to know people from different walks of life, different backgrounds. So, yeah, it's something I've always been really attracted to. I got my undergraduate degree in psychology. So I've always been interested in what makes people tick.
You'll be competing in the same division now as Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. How difficult does that seem, or does being in the SEC make that look like not a big deal?
JF: I think it’s definitely challenging. This is a great conference. Those are great teams, and they have great coaches. But all our focus and thought is on Central Florida [in the 2014 opener]. It’s going to be here before we know it. What an unbelievable opportunity for these kids to go to Ireland and play a football game, and get to experience a different culture. And to me, that's what Penn State is all about, creating well-rounded individuals through a variety of different experiences.
You'll also be in the same division now, and competing right away on the recruiting trail, against Maryland. You were nearly the head coach there. What are your thoughts about that?
JF: I had a great experience at the University of Maryland. I really did. I enjoyed my time there, and we won a bunch of games for Ralph Friedgen. I worked for Debbie Yow, the great athletic director there. The fans, the boosters, the high school coaches there were awesome. So I had a great experience at the University of Maryland and am forever grateful for my time there.
You talked about looking long term in this job. What is your long-term vision for Penn State? Can you get this program back to the national elite soon?
JF: Our goals are extremely high. We have very, very high expectations. We have very, very high goals and standards, and we're going to work very hard in achieving them. We’re going to wake up every single morning and work like crazy to be the best we possibly can be, and Saturdays will take care of themselves.
What are your plans for the next few days before the recruiting period opens up again?
JF: I'm still trying to finalize recruiting and solidify some of that. I'm still trying to put a staff together and get those guys in place. There are probably about 45 or 50 different jobs that I’ve got to get done in a short period of time. So that’s why being able to get the staff on board would be very, very helpful, just because you'd have more manpower.
Have you had a chance to meet with Christian Hackenberg yet? How excited are you to coach him?
JF: I recruited Christian out of high school, and I know his father. I spoke to him a little bit before our team meeting and of course got to interact with him in the meeting. I'm excited about our entire team and all the great players we have and all the hard work they've put into this. Christian is a piece of the puzzle, a big piece of the puzzle. But I'm excited about working with all these guys.
Has anyone invited you to their birthday parties yet to tie balloons?
JF: I had three people say that to me today at the women's basketball game and the wrestling match.
Are you going to fulfill those invitations?
JF: Maybe not right now when I’ve got a bunch of things on my plate. But if they can time their birthdays up to times when I've got a little bit of leeway, I'd be more than happy to do it.