Five years ago, Daniel Franklin emerged from the mountains of north Georgia as one of the top linebacker prospects in the nation.
He signed with Oklahoma, which had just won its second consecutive Big 12 Championship a month earlier. Franklin had his football life mapped out. "Honestly, I thought I was going to come in, start as a freshman, be an All-American and be here three years and get drafted," Franklin said.
Of course he would. Franklin ranked No. 92 on the ESPN 150, behind Andrew Luck (No. 61) and ahead of Mark Ingram (No. 108).
Ingram won a Heisman. Luck finished second twice. Franklin? Something funny happened on his way to the NFL draft. By the five-star, blue-chip, stat-maven, Roger Goodell-hugging metric, Franklin didn't pan out.
In four seasons, he never started a game at linebacker. He spent last season as the long snapper on the punt team. In his entire career at Oklahoma, Franklin made one tackle. and that came in the next-to-last game of his final regular season. Franklin spent five years going from Sure Thing to Sure Wasn't.
And Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops wants a locker room full of Daniel Franklins.
"He did contribute," Stoops said the other day. "He was always positive, even when he wasn't playing as much as he had hoped. It takes a whole group of players like that to have a team. And not everybody is going to be the star. Not everyone is going to start. But your better teams have players like that who contribute in whatever ways they are able."
Franklin recalled the feeling he had when he arrived at Oklahoma and saw the size and speed of linebackers like Ryan Reynolds and Travis Lewis. He redshirted as a freshman. Fall turned into spring into summer. Another season came and went. Franklin began to understand that his football career had veered off the route he had mapped.