Man of Christ: Johnathan Franklin: ‘I am supposed to be where I am’
By Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel
~Green Bay — In today’s Journal Sentinel, we explored the lives of players who had the game ripped away from them. The ones with career-ending neck injuries — such as Nick Collins, Terrence Murphy, Johnathan Franklin and Johnny Holland — weren’t able to walk away from the game under their terms. Neck injuries cut their careers short.
These days, Franklin is settling in at Notre Dame as the administrator for student welfare and development in the athletics department.
Here are a few more thoughts from the former Packers running back in addition to the story linked above…
On his new job… “Absolutely love it. I have an opportunity to be in charge of 750 student-athletes, creating these outreach programs. And I just became the liason for five different teams and I have the opportunity to meet with the head coaches and develop captains and leaders amongst the teams. It’s really been a blessing to have this transition and how these opportunities have been created for me. Very rewarding and I’m very thankful.”
On what his job at Notre Dame entails… “Engagement with the players amongst the team. Attending practice, attending games and different types of meetings. Meeting 1 on 1 with the head coach about once a month and talking to him about where his team is at, where his captains are at as far as their mind-set, where they’re struggling as captains and as leaders. What I do is help them develop as better captains and better leaders for their team.”
On how he can develop leaders and captains… “We had meetings at what’s called the Rosenthal Leadership Academy. We speak about leadership—walking a walk and talking a talk. We talk about knowing your ‘why.’ Why do you want to be a captain? Why do you want to wake up and do the things that you do every day. We talk about being able to call people out on your team. We talk about struggles people have amongst their teams. Me being a captain at UCLA and me having that role and changing that culture, I could relate to a lot of captains and leaders on teams. So it’s easy for me to also bring up with I struggled with. Nine times out of 10 — if not each time — they relate to the same thing.”
On if he has turned a corner himself in accepting his career is over or if it’s a constant battle…“What I’ve learned and my faith has grown so much. I am supposed to be where I am. I know last time we talked, it was definitely an emotional battle and it still is a transition. One, preparing myself as a business man and having that 9-to-5 job is a huge difference being a student-athlete at UCLA and playing in the NFL when you’re around a certain culture and talk a certain way since we’re just talking about football all the time and hanging out in that sense. We’re wearing sweats and a t-shirt to the office every day. Now, we’re talking about politics. We’re talking about laws and regulations. We’re talking the NCAA, athletic directors, I’m wearing a shirt and tie and slacks every day. It’s a different regiment and it’s a different way I have to carry myself. And it’s a different way I have to converse with different people. I think that’s been a transition. Now that football is over, how do I carry myself.”
On if he’s able to sleep easier now… “Oh man. There was a point in time when I was hurt. Crying. Up. Couldn’t sleep. Frustrated. I had a million questions. But I realized that I have one shot at life. Am I going to choose to live my life asking these questions and crying and being frustrated from here on out? Or am I going to accept where I am and conquer it and make the changes that I need to make? I have an opportunity to change student-athletes’ lives and have them accomplish the dream that I had — andappreciate where they are in their life. I’m happy to tell my story.”
“I have a great support system and I’m thankful. I read so many stories about former athletes and how they’re suicidal, they’re depressed, they can’t do anything. They don’t even know how to do anything financially, how they can’t be happy. Regardless of if I’m playing football or not, I’m thankful with where I am in my life. I’m at peace. It’s really a blessing. It really is. It took some time. And I’m still growing. I can’t sit here and say everything is absolutely perfect. But I’m happy where I am, I’m happy where I’m going and I’m thankful for this job and this opportunity.”
On sitting down with athletes at Notre Dame and sharing his story… “That and I’m with over 750 student-athletes as a whole. So I’m creating community outreach programs in the community — if there’s an opportunity for them to visit the hospital, if it’s creating opportunities to read to elementary schools or feed the homeless. If it’s hanging out with kids with autism. Whatever we can to take advantage of this platform even if it’s just me creating a community outreach event from the base, that’s what I do. It’s challenging. It’s challenging to create relationships with 750 students. It’s one thing getting kids into the community, and it’s another thing to get kids into the community and it being a genuine thing. I don’t want them to just be there to be there. I want there to be a takeaway. I want them to grow. I want them to be passionate about it to really make the changes in South Bend that need to happen.”
On if he has a 5- or 10-year plan, where he sees himself down the road… “I’m a California guy and I miss that weather. This Midwest weather is killing me, killing me! I’d love to make my way back to California down the road even if it’s an opportunity in Green Bay being in the front office. I do have goals. I do have dreams. Playing in the NFL and my career ending so abruptly, I take things one day at a time. Today is my dream, today is my goal. Tomorrow I’ll develop another dream and I’ll develop another goal. I think it’s just taking things one day at a time. What the NFL has taught me with that injury, I had a goal, I had a dream of playing 10-15 years. I don’t any pain or regret — I’m happy where I’m at — but you’ve got to make the most of what you have today.”
On many other players struggling to adjust to life after football… “Absolutely. That’s why I’m so blessed with the people in my corner and with the faith that I have, understanding that my life is bigger than me. It’s about living for God and being strong. My faith has been strong. It was strong when I was playing and it’s still strong when I’m not playing. And I’m thankful because of that. I’m thankful my faith has not wavered and been lost. I still love this God I’ve been loving since I found him a couple of years ago.”
Original story HERE