Mizzou's Franklin took unusual route to QB

August, 19, 2011
8/19/11
11:00
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James Franklin kept pleading. He kept hearing no.

First, he was too big.

"I was a little chubby, but I was taller than a lot of the other kids, too," he said.

In sixth grade, he weighed in at 185 pounds, 50 pounds over the 135-pound limit for his age group in Missouri, but was still allowed to play.

[+] EnlargeMissouri quarterback James Franklin
Mark J. Rebilas/US PRESSWIREJames Franklin is ready to prove he can be the next great Missouri quarterback.
He played everywhere but quarterback in the fifth grade, his first year playing the game, but his gig in sixth grade?

Right tackle and defensive end. He wanted to be a quarterback.

"I’d always ask about it and they’d never let me play," he said. He was better suited elsewhere, they told him.

He moved south to Texas before seventh grade and rotated between duties as center, guard, running back, receiver, linebacker and his background in soccer earned him a job punting.

But still no quarterback. Eventually his duties were trimmed to wide receiver and defensive end, but by his freshman year, he'd stopped asking.

That's when he finally got his shot.

After a year as the team's backup and a tight end, he took the starting job.

Just four years later, he's about to take hold of a Top-25 team.

Fall camp was supposed to be the stage for a big-time quarterback battle, but Tyler Gabbert's post-spring transfer abbreviated the race.

"When he said he was leaving, I was in shock," Franklin said. "At the same time, I was like, now I need to step it up, because guys are going to be looking to me."

Gabbert still hasn't found a permanent home, but Franklin felt he was robbed of a chance to prove he could win the job.

"My main competition left, so it was kind of like it was given to me in a way," he said. "It’s not like I earned it."

So Franklin, perhaps the next in a line of great Missouri quarterbacks under coach Gary Pinkel, didn't have a job to win, but he had (and still has) plenty to prove.

"What I did during the summer was try and work harder to prove that I have earned it," he said. "I wanted to come into fall camp and make it look like I had earned it and execute the plays and offense and not that it was just given to me."

Part of the transition from being the backup to NFL first-round pick Blaine Gabbert to the Tigers starter has been piping up.

He's a far cry from Gabbert and his predecessor, Chase Daniel, both of whom grew up with quarterback seemingly written all over their genes.

The naturally quiet Franklin has been prodded by teammates T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew, among others, to be the voice of a team with a chance to make plenty of people across the Big 12 listen in 2011.

"It meant a lot, because I know they’re trusting in me and encouraging me. They want me to get to greater heights," Franklin said of his receivers' tutelage. "We have a really good squad this year and I think we can go far. That’s something they see that as well and they want it to happen and they want to move along faster so we can get there."

Call it the final step from a lifelong transition from right tackle to quarterback. He's not asking to play the position any more.

Franklin's time has come.

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