For Packers rookie RB Johnathan Franklin, football is just the start of many great things
By Special to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
~GREEN BAY — Johnathan Franklin is finding life in Green Bay a tad bit different than his hometown of Los Angeles.
Cheese curds are foreign fare in California, Moose heads mounted on walls are rare and not a lot of heads turn when you cruise down the Sunset Strip in a Chevy Impala.
Franklin, the Packers fourth-round selection from UCLA, doesn’t mind. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound running back is in the NFL’s smallest market on a mission: to earn a roster spot and play for one of the league’s most storied franchises.
“Oh my gosh, from Los Angles to Green Bay, Wisconsin,” Franklin exclaimed in front of his locker after the Packers’ final minicamp practice. “Boy, I tell ya. It’s like night and day.”
Franklin has never gone fishing or hunting in his life, and he encountered his first trophy mount in the team’s equipment room.
“I saw a moose head in a room the other day and I went crazy. I ain’t seen none of this,” Franklin explained while shaking his head. “I said, ‘Is that real? Did you really kill a moose?’ It’s so different here. I saw a porcupine the other day, I mean it’s crazy.”
The city kid has ventured out on a day trip to Door County.
“I wanted to see Lake Michigan,” Franklin said. “I was driving through the woods and I was so scared. There I was on the cliff (at Cave Point County Park) and it was nice. We just drove up and came right back.”
Franklin has yet to travel to Madison or Milwaukee.
“I still have to eat a cheese curd, that’s what everybody is telling me. So I’m excited for that.”
Despite some culture shock, Franklin also considers it a blessing to be playing football in a city just over 100,000 people.
“There’s not that much to do in Green Bay, which allows us on this team to be close,” he said. “We’re not going out and trying to impress nobody.”
The only people Franklin is trying to impress are his coaches as he competes in a crowded stable of running backs.
Franklin did not grow up a 49ers, Raiders or Chargers fan. He was a staunch supporter of the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I was a big fan of Javon Kearse, Steve McNair, Eddie George — all those guys. I was a huge Bucs fan because of John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and Keshawn Johnson.”
The Green Bay Packers weren’t really on his radar, but they are now.
“The tradition here is something else,” he said. “The prestige of this franchise and how historic it is, and the players that have come through and how the community owns and supports it. I mean it’s amazing.”
It has been well-documented that Franklin aspires to become the mayor of Los Angeles one day after his football career, to spearhead change in a great city riddled with complex problems of drugs, gangs and violence.
He looks forward to the opportunities and experiences that are ahead, both on and off the football field. Whatever Franklin, UCLA’s all-time leading rusher, commits to, he does so with a mature passion beyond his 23 years of age.
“Green Bay is totally different to me, but it’s just another journey in my life,” Franklin said. “We all got our different paths, and we all have our different journeys. I’m excited to learn about myself more and see where my future goes and see the kind of man that I become in life.”
Here’s some other things you might not know about Franklin.
Born: Oct. 23, 1989.
Degree: Political science major. Interned in the office of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for a month and a half in college.
Favorite meal: Macaroni and cheese and collared greens.
Favorite flick: “American Gangster.” I’m a big Denzel Washington fan.
Favorite books: “Letters to a Young Brother.” It’s just an amazing book and talks about growing up as a man, maturing as a man. Just being wise and making the right choices. Also, “The Energy Bus.” It’s about being positive and having the right people around you. That pretty much everything that happens in your life is to make you a better person.
My ride: I have a rental car (Impala), just taking it one day at a time. I’m not a fancy, high-roller guy. If I get anything, I’ll probably get a Nissan Altima. I’m not in L.A., so I don’t need a Range Rover or Mercedes. I’m good.
Other hobbies and interests: Tennis. I’m a big (Roger) Federer/(Novak) Djokovic fan. I love watching tennis. It’s very spiritual. I also love playing video games and just relaxing. I’m a family man; I don’t have no kids, but I have a nephew and niece back home in L.A.
Immediate goal as a football player: Just getting better every day. Just getting better and not being satisfied and working as hard as you can. If we do that, I believe things will fall into place.
On taking hand-offs from Aaron Rodgers: It’s great. Aaron’s a great person and we all know he’s a great athlete. What I like about him is he’s a man with expectations. When you come into the huddle, you need to know what you’re doing. You need to understand everything and that’s great because that makes me want to be better. So I like to go in there and tell him, ‘I got this,’ and he’s not on my case.
Role models: I love Tim Tebow because of his spiritual walk. Through all that he’s been through he still stays strong in his walk and that’s very encouraging.
My pastor and my mom (Pamela) have also been great role models for me.
Introduction to football: My step-dad at the time said, “Why don’t you try football?” I was doing nothing but really sitting around the house. Honestly, I just went out and tried football. It started in 1999 when I was 10 years old. I went out by myself, tried it out and fell in love with it.
Aspirations to become L.A.’s mayor: I was tired of seeing the same people just fall short in life or not even make it to the age of 18. When I shadowed the major for a couple of days, I looked at all the people (at a chamber of commerce meeting) and I didn’t even feel they were listening or cared. There were so many, I felt, unheard voices out there in the city. I believe things can be fixed and things can be answered. You know what, I gotta change this city. I got to be somebody that they can count on and trust and be a leader for them.
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