Easy to root for: Johnathan Franklin a talent and a great guy
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor
~When the Packers stole running back Eddie Lacy late in the second round, pundits and analysts around the country said the Packers finally solved their running game woes. They said Lacy was the missing piece needed to take some pressure off MVP Aaron Rodgers.
While that might be the case, the Packers added another highly-rated back with the addition of Johnathan Franklin from UCLA. The Packers seem to do well with Pac-10, West Coast guys as Rodgers (Cal), Clay Matthews (USC), Desmond Bishop (Cal), Nick Perry (USC), Datone Jones (UCLA), and James Jones (San Jose St.).
When the Packers stole Lacy late in round two, there were many (including me) who debated if he or Franklin was the best pick there. Lacy is a big banger, with speed and agility, who thrived in the national spotlight at Alabama, winning the national title. Lacy was the MVP of that title game against Notre Dame, which incidentally probably cost Irish linebacker Manti Te’o a lot of money.
But Lacy was running into gigantic holes much of the time behind a great Crimson Tide offensive line. He averaged about four yards per carry before contact during the season. In the NFL, especially behind this offensive line, he might not see a hole like that once in a game. He’s also battled some nagging injuries, which is already a problem Packer running backs have had constantly.
If Franklin did what he did in the SEC, he would have been a second round pick. But playing on the left coast, for UCLA, he went a bit under-the-radar.
Franklin is an all-purpose back who reminds some of Niners back Frank Gore or even former Colts and Rams stud Marshall Faulk. Franklin is a very good receiver out of the backfield. He had 32 catches last season.
He ran his 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds at the NFL scouting combine and had the best 60-yard shuttle time among running backs, showing his quickness and change of direction.
Franklin set UCLA’s single-season rushing record with 1,734 yards in 2012. He also set the school career rushing record with 4,403 yards.
His highlight this past season came in the emotional, rivalry win over USC. In that game, Franklin carried the ball 29 times for 171 yards, and scored two touchdowns. He was the player of the game, which is an award called the George W. Dickerson Award. The USC-UCLA rivalry is one of the best in football. Ask Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.
Franklin also torched a good team in Stanford with 194 yards and two touchdowns.
He’s the first UCLA RB to be drafted since Maurice Jones-Drew was taken in the second round by Jacksonville in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Here’s a great radio interview from ESPN LA last November, following the big win over crosstown rival USC.
Franklin, in an earlier interview with Peter Smith, revealed some good stuff about himself.
First, I definitely got to give credit to my great offensive line that worked hard and busted their tails off every play for me. And I had some unselfish wide receivers that made some big blocks down the field, blocking safeties.
And with me, just work ethic; just working hard; not just in practice, but late at night going running or waking up early in the morning and going to work out. Doing more than just enough and pushing myself as much as I can.
God has blessed me so much and put me in this position to lead. It’s not just about work but it’s about faith as well. The two just work together and I was able to have a great season but I was also able to shine for him and spread his love and spread his word.
I would say being the UCLA all-time leading rusher. Just to look back at all the great running backs; we’ve had a lot of running backs come through UCLA. Just to be a part of that was truly a blessing; it really is.
I hope I’m viewed as a man of God, first off without a doubt; somebody that was humble, high character, respectable, and worked hard in everything that I did. Everything. I just wanted to set a standard for men, for football players, and not to be viewed as just a football player, but more than that. And to just do it the right way. And to be wise in the things that I do.