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A Year Ago, in His Own Words: A Look Back at Franklin’s First Penn State Press Conference

by on January 11, 2015 9:30 PM

James Franklin’s Year 2 at Penn State began on Sunday morning. No doubt he did a back handspring out of bed to get things started.

James jumps and time flies.

It’s been a year since Franklin succeeded Bill O’Brien as the 16th head coach in the 128 years of Penn State football history.

He was formally introduced to the public at 4:15 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. On the dais with Franklin that Saturday inside Beaver Stadium were the two men who hired him – president Rod Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner. Both are now gone.

Their successors, Eric Barron and Sandy Barbour, have been in place since May and July, respectively. So, with his new bosses, Franklin now leads the way in truly representing a(nother) new era for Penn State on and off the field.

There’s no doubt that Franklin hit a home run in that initial presser last January, sharing his history, successes and goals with a roomful of nearly 150 media and Penn State types. He looked the part of youth and polish, his head razor-smooth and van dyke tidily trimmed. He was attired in a blue-and-white-striped tie, dark blue suit and light blue silk pocket square, with a Nittany Lion head pin on his right lapel. The press conference lasted 52 minutes and 29 seconds, over the course of which Franklin’s remarks numbered 6,718 words. (O’Brien’s introductory presser numbers, in 2012: 31:56 and 2,810.)

Penn State football has been through a great deal in the past 12 months, with Franklin leading the way. The Nittany Lions had the final NCAA sanctions lifted and went to their first bowl game in three seasons, defeating Boston College 31-30 in overtime in Yankee Stadium, to finish with a 7-6 record. Franklin and his team earned their Pinstripes, indeed.

When you read Franklin’s words from last January, you get a sense of how, for the most part, the Penn State head coach has stayed the course – almost remarkably so -- with his message and vision that he articulated on Day One. (Except that promising to blow up balloons at birthday parties part…) The Man has remained on point.

Here’s an edited version (#1.917k words) of Franklin’s comments from his first official day on the job last year, arranged alphabetically by category:

BUILDING A PROGRAM:  “We're coming here with the mindset that we’re going to build this program. We’re going to build it the right way, and we’re going to build it for the long haul. We plan on being here for a very, very long time. This is my dream job. This is where I want to be. Wearing these colors, representing this state, representing these high school coaches and the people of the fine state of Pennsylvania is what I want to do for a very, very long time. Our plan is to go out and win a bunch of games so we can stay here.”

CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG:  “It always helps to have a quarterback. I don’t care whether it’s Little League, high school, college or the NFL, if you have a quarterback, you’ve got a chance. We feel very, very good about the quarterback we have in our program right now.”

FOUR CORE VALUES:  “Our four core values will be to have a positive attitude. Every single person associated with our program will have a great attitude and be very appreciative of the opportunity they have at Penn State. No. 2, we’re going to work extremely hard. You know, there is not going to be a program or a coach in the country that’s going to outwork us. No. 3, we’re going to compete in everything we do, starting in the classroom. Then the fourth thing is our guys and everybody in our program are going to know that you’ve got to sacrifice. You’ve got to sacrifice things that the common man won’t sacrifice to get to where you want to go in life. There are four core values and we’re going to live by them every single day.”

HEAD COACH AS CEO:  “The interesting thing with this job is you’ve got to wear a lot of hats, and every job is important -- connecting with the former players, recruiting, developing relationships on campus. One of the best things we did when we first got to Vanderbilt is that I went around and took every dean, the provost, vice chancellors out to lunch. And I plan on doing the same thing here. Taking everybody that I can on this campus out to lunch and getting to know them and asking them questions – ‘What can we do better? What are areas that you think I need to be aware of?’ ”

“It’s the same thing in the community, reaching out as much as you possibly can. So me and my wife and my children will be out in this community. We’ll not turn down a speaking engagement. We’ll get out and interact with people. People ask us to come speak at schools; we’re going to be there. People ask us to come speak at social events; we’re going to be there. People ask us to blow up balloons in their kid’s birthday party in the backyard; we’ll do that as well.”

HIRING A COACHING STAFF:  “I’m a guy that for the last 12 years has been creating a staff. I have a list of receiver coaches and tight end coaches and offensive coordinators and defensive coordinators for the right job and the right fit and the right setting making sure that we’re always prepared. That’s something you’re going to find from me is we’re going to work very, very hard to be prepared for every situation that may come up.

“I am fiercely loyal as a person in general, and I’m going to be fiercely loyal to the guys that I’ve worked with in the past. But I also know that we’re going to sit down and have some discussions with some people that are here. I think there are some people that can help us in the transition. Guys that have strong Penn State ties, guys that understand this place.”

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JOE PATERNO: “Well, first of all, (I have) tremendous respect for Joe Paterno and what he did here and how he built this program. I think that the biggest thing is what I said before -- that everybody is so passionate and has such strong opinions because they care so much about this university and what it stands for. I think the fact that they have someone sitting in this role right now that cares just as much about it as they do is important.”

OFF THE FIELD:  “We’ll focus on the things that we can control. The things that we can’t control, I’m going to leave those things up to the administration. I’m going to leave those things up to the politicians, and I’m just going to coach and love these kids in this program and help them develop into the young men that they want to be. That’s our focus. Focus on the things we can control, work hard every day to develop the best student‑athletes we can, develop the best football program we possibly can, and be a positive part of this community. I think that's the thing that we look at.”

PENN STATE HEART:  “I’m excited to come home. That is probably the thing that I take the most pride in is coming home. I’m a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart, and so excited to be here.”

PLAY-CALLING AND X’S AND O’S:  “…What I would say is we’re going to run multiple pro‑style offense, defense, and special teams. To me, I’m not a guy that's going to pigeonhole what we’re going to do. I think my philosophy is you go out and hire really smart people, and you have a system that has flexibility to take advantage of all your strengths and hide your weaknesses. I think that’s what we all try to do in whatever organization or whatever business you’re in. You play to your strengths and hide your weaknesses, and that’s what we're going to do.

“I don’t believe in one offense or one defense or one special teams philosophy is the end‑all, be‑all. It’s about taking advantage of the assets that you have, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll be pro‑style, multiple pro‑style offense, defense, and we'll be aggressive in everything we do. When we get off the bus, we’ll be aggressive. The way we call the game, we’ll be aggressive. I think that’s very, very important. I think the fans want to see an exciting style of defense. I think the fans want to see an exciting style of offense and special teams. We’ll take calculated risks. We’re going to have fun.”

RECRUITING: “…Our recruiting philosophy, we are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region.

“…I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but we’re going to dominate the state. That is the first thing that we’re going to do. I believe in the high school coaches in this state. I know how well (players are) coached and developed. I know how talented this state is as well. I know how important football is here. I think that’s very, very important. So that is the first thing we’re going to do. We’re going to work very, very hard and put a staff together that will help us dominate the state of Pennsylvania.

“Then obviously being able to recruit aggressively in this region as well. New Jersey, obviously Pennsylvania, New York, New England, Virginia, Delaware have been very good to Penn State traditionally. I think also we were going to take a national approach by position. We will do that as well. So everybody will have recruiting areas, everybody will be in the state. Every one of our staff members will have an area in the state. We’ll also have areas in the region and the states that surround Pennsylvania.

“We’ll recruit nationally as well, because I think you sell yourself short when you don’t do that. We could have a Penn State alumnus in California whose son always grew up wanting to go to Penn State. So having the ability to recruit nationally so that we’re aware of where all the great players are in this country, I think that’s important. But our team will be comprised and mainly made up of Pennsylvania young men.”

RELATIONSHIPS:  “I’m a relationship guy. You guys are going to ask me what our offensive philosophy and defensive philosophy and special teams philosophy is -- I really don’t care. To me it’s about people. I love kids. You’re not going to find a coach that cares more about their players than me, and their complete development, academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, the whole package. That’s what drives me.

“…Again, I'm a relationship‑based person. So the way we interact with our players and the reason we've been successful at Vanderbilt is because we have unbelievable chemistry on our staff and with our players. That’s why we'll be successful here as well because these kids will know how much we care about them. I believe you can be unbelievably challenging and demanding on people if you love them hard as well. That’s what we’re about.”

SCHOLARSHIPS:  “I really wish that we had 35 scholarships in this class, because I think we can put together one of the top recruiting classes in the country. But I guarantee you those are coming. Those are coming. We’ve got too many things to sell here at this great institution. We’ve got too many things to sell that families and young men are looking for.”

SELLING OUT BEAVER STADIUM:  “…107,000 from here on out. That stadium will be sold out every single game from here on out. Walking into a stadium that is sold out and is passionate -- everybody talks about the impact it has on recruits, and it has a tremendous impact on recruits. When you’re a 17-, 18‑year‑old kid, it’s hard not to be affected by that.”

UNITING PENN STATE:  “…I think I’m the right guy to come back and unite this state. Unite this state and bring this program back to where I think it can be.

“…I’m calling on all the people in the state that we need to come together like never before. I think with everybody pulling the rope in the same direction there is no reason why we can’t take this program where everybody wants it to be. We should take great pride in representing the state of Pennsylvania. We should take great pride in being having the ability to play for Penn State University, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to unite the coaches, we’re going to unite the community, and build this program where everybody wants it to be.

“…The healing process is why I'm here. It's why we're all here, to bring this great university back together and try to unite the former players, the current players, the alumni, all the people. Because I think that is the reality is everybody just takes great pride in this university and they want to see it great in everything -- academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, the whole package.”

UNRIVALED:  “…We felt like this was a special opportunity, an opportunity where we could walk into a young man’s home and offer the best of everything. An opportunity to get a great education, an opportunity to play for championships, and that’s what we’re all about. …World-class academics, true student‑athletes, and unrivaled football tradition."

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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