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James Franklin: ‘Our people’ is what makes Penn State football special

By David Barr davidbarr@pressandjournal.com
Posted 5/17/17

Amid hundreds of blue-and-white clad supporters chanting “We are … Penn State!”, head football coach James Franklin outlined what he said makes the Nittany Lions program special during the …

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James Franklin: ‘Our people’ is what makes Penn State football special

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Amid hundreds of blue-and-white clad supporters chanting “We are … Penn State!”, head football coach James Franklin outlined what he said makes the Nittany Lions program special during the Coaches Caravan at Penn State Harrisburg on Tuesday evening, May 9.

Franklin told the audience the purpose of the tour was to give coaches the opportunity to interact with fans and show how much the coaching staffs and the athletic department supports them and appreciates everything the fans do for them.

The other coaches that were with Franklin on this stop were Denise St. Pierre, women’s golf; Coquese Washington, women’s basketball; and Randy Jepson, men’s gymnastics; along with athletic director Sandy Barbour. The caravan made its way through Pennsylvania last week.

“The thing that makes us special, always has, always will, is our people. The sense of family, the sense of community that we have, how we look out for one another,” Franklin said.

Franklin addressed the question that has been asked of him most during the tour and when he is out recruiting, which is what was/is the secret to last season’s run to a Big Ten title and a spot in the 2017 Rose Bowl. His response was that there is no secret to being successful. Instead it takes hard work, attention to details, and having everyone as Franklin described it, singing the same song in the same tune.

“When Penn State is all pulling the rope in the same direction, we’re difficult to deal with,” Franklin said. “When there’s 107,000 fans in Beaver Stadium, and that place is rocking, we’re tough to deal with.”

This year’s team is expected to be strong again. ESPN has the Nittany Lions ranked No. 5 in its “Way-Too-Early Top 25.” Quarterback Trace McSorley and tailback Saquon Barkley are back to lead the offense.

Last season’s success was a bit of a surprise, with Penn State coming off a 7-6 season, and many thought the coach was on the hot seat. Instead, they went 11-3, winning the Big Ten Championship game and losing in the last seconds vs. USC in the Rose Bowl. Franklin was selected as the 2016 Sporting News National Coach of the Year. The two teams to whom they lost in the regular season last year, Pittsburgh and Michigan, both travel to Happy Valley in 2017. However, they will have to visit Columbus, Ohio on Oct. 28 to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Franklin said last season being the first with a full 85 scholarships was key. It was the first season since 2011 that they had the full amount. Sanctions in the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal had cut that number to 65.

Every player bought in to the message that Franklin and his staff preached from the beginning of the season, he said, building the love, trust, and respect the team needed to compete in the Big Ten on Saturday afternoons.

“We played together. We played for each other. We played with passion,” Franklin said.

He expressed his pride in his players for their academic success in the classroom and their work in the community. Last season, 51 players had a GPA of 3.0 or better; Franklin said he expects them to beat that number this spring semester. There were 2,100 hours of community service performed by the team as well last year.

“The thing that our guys have really embraced and figured out is the more you give to others, it actually comes back to you tenfold. You can get everything you want in life by giving to others,” Franklin said.

Most of all, he expressed his support for the fans in attendance and in the stands or the “psychos” as he jokingly referred to them, for a reason why Penn State was undefeated at home last season.

Franklin highlighted four core values for the football team, but they could be applied to everyday life as well; having a positive attitude and being appreciative of what they have, developing a positive work ethic, competing with teammates to push themselves and each other, and sacrificing the small things in life for success.

Franklin touched on his background, growing up and playing football in Pennsylvania, and having spent 23 years coaching football at various levels, including the NFL and how special it is to be coaching in his home state for a prestigious university.

“For a kid who grew up in this state, to have an opportunity to come back home and be the head football coach at Penn State is unbelievable,” Franklin said. “We wake up every single morning working really, really hard to make you guys proud every single day, to represent you the right way to play with heart, to play with passion and be able to represent you guys in the right way in the community,” he said. “I can’t express to you what it means to me to be the head football coach at Penn State and be home again with you guys and representing this great university.”

It was the second time in just a few days that Franklin had been in the area for a Penn State Harrisburg-related event. He gave the commencement address May 6 at Giant Center for Penn State Harrisburg’s graduation.

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