James Franklin says he’s not the sort of guy to “take a deep breath,” even after 2016 success
James Franklin at King of Prussia stop on Penn State Coaches’ Caravan
KING OF PRUSSIA – What a difference a year makes, right?
Well, if we’re to believe James Franklin, maybe none at all.
During Penn State’s Coaches’ Caravan stop here at the Valley Forge Hotel and Casino, I asked Franklin how his internal compass reacts to the sort of success he enjoyed during the startling 11-3 season and Big Ten championship, one that really came out of the blue for most folks.
His answer was typical Franklin in its buoyancy but at this point you have to buy it. What Penn State football achieved last year could not have come about any other way.
“If I was a first-time head coach and it was my first time experiencing these things, it may be different,” Franklin said. “But we had faced adversity and success before as a staff; this isn’t the first time experiencing either.
“When we took over Vanderbilt, that was a tough situation. We able to have some success there and then build on it probably to a level that had not been done there before.
“Then [we] come to Penn State and it was a challenging situation when we walked in. When there was concern and questioning, things like that [during the 7-6 seasons in 2014 and 2015], we never really felt those things internally.”
Maybe it was tunnel vision. Surely, Franklin knew and expected those seasons more than a few alums and fans because he understood the challenges of the sanction-depleted roster and trying to fit the square-peg quarterback he inherited into the round hole of his offensive acumen. But Franklin met whatever negativity he encountered with clusters of balloons and promises of better days ahead. If he felt the pressure, he didn’t show it. And he said here he didn’t feel it:
“We said those things to you guys, but I don’t know if everybody necessarily understood that. But we never felt that. I never felt that from the administration. I never felt that, because I really believed in what we were doing and where we were going.”
Then, the question is, does his own personality allow him to be a different person in 2017?
“So now, the other end of it – the success – I always expected us to have. So, it’s not like it was a surprise. And I would also make the argument that how it started makes you appreciate where we are now. And I’d also say, how it started also allows you not to drink the Kool-Aid now.
“My point is, we’ve seen one end of the spectrum. It makes you appreciate the other end. But also, I’m not gonna get caught up in the people telling us how wonderful we are now, because they are the same people who before were telling us other things.
“So, I think it really does ground you. You get to the point where you don’t get caught up in either of those things. You just kind of stay true to who you are and your process and the things you really believe in and care about so you can go to sleep at night.
“You’re gonna have days where you have a huge win and you’re going to sleep at night because you know you did everything you could to be successful. And there will be days where you have huge losses, but you should be able to sleep – because you did everything you possibly did to be successful.”
All of that is fine to say. But I asked Franklin if, because he’s acquired some political capital with the 2016 season, does he allow himself an exhale and become more positive? Or does he wipe that from his mind somehow and remain unwavering in his resolution?
“That’s the problem. And I talk about this to the team all the time: I don’t believe in setting goals. Because once you reach that goal, it’s human nature to take a deep breath and say, ‘I’ve arrived.’
“But there’s no time for that. It’s just not how I’m wired. It’s not how I came up in this profession. It’s not how I was raised, either by my family as well as coaches I’ve had.
“We have taken one step in a very long journey. For the programs we want to compete with – academically, socially, spiritually – we’ve still got a long ways to go. We took a really nice step. But it’s gonna be scratching and clawing and fighting to get where we wanna go.”
James Franklin on how he handles success
DAVID JONES: firstname.lastname@example.org