James Franklin says he’s ‘living the dream’ as Penn State’s coach during commencement speech
Shortly after the Penn State Harrisburg graduates on Saturday had found their seats on the main floor at the Giant Center, a woman began a chant.
“We are,” she yelled.
“Penn State,” the graduates yelled back.
But her fellow graduates weren’t the only ones. On the stage, Penn State football coach and keynote speaker James Franklin joined in. And after the chant ended, Franklin pointed to the woman, smiled and gave her a thumbs up.
Franklin may not have been up in State College or at his alma mater East Stroudsburg where he was the commencement speaker three years ago, but there was no doubt he felt right at home in that moment.
James Franklin gives commencement speech at Penn State Harrisburg graduation
Then later Saturday morning, Franklin took center stage for about 10 minutes while he delivered a speech to the Penn State Harrisburg graduates highlighting ways they can be successful in their future endeavors.
Throughout his speech, Franklin leaned on things he’s learned during his tenure coaching, especially at Penn State. But he found moments to keep it lighthearted, too.
“I’m going to try to keep this as brief as possible so everybody can go celebrate on second street, because I know that’s what they really want to do,” Franklin joked at the beginning of his speech.
Franklin proceeded to explain some of the reasons he felt Penn State was able to have such a successful 2016-17 season that featured a Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Among some of the things Franklin mentioned were achieving strong relationships, focusing on the process instead of goals and understanding ones’ strengths and weaknesses. He even shared his own.
“My greatest strength is my passion and my drive,” Franklin said. “My greatest weakness is my passion and my drive. I think it’s very, very important that everybody understands those things.”
James Franklin jokes he isn’t the smartest or best looking coach in the BIg Ten
The coach, who has led the Lions to a bowl appearance in each of his first three seasons, stressed the importance of a positive attitude to those in attendance. Instead of responding with just “alright” when someone asks how his day is going, he said he has a slightly different response.
“People ask me how I’m doing and I say, ‘I’m living the dream,’ because I am,” Franklin said. “I’m the head football coach at Penn State. I’m a Pennsylvania product — I grew up in this state — so the fact that I’m able to come back home and be able to be the head coach of Penn State University is unbelievable. So I’m living the dream every single day.”
To wrap up his speech — after he gone over Penn State’s core values and joked with the crowd that he wasn’t the smartest or best looking coach in the Big Ten — Franklin left the graduates with one final thought.
Franklin told them to stay broke for as long as possible. It may sound like odd advice, but the coach stressed it as a way of chasing their dreams while they are still young.
“Make decisions that are going to be in your best interest and your family’s best interest five, 10 years down the road,” Franklin said.
“All of you have been broke up to this point. Embrace it a little bit longer.”