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Penn State Football: #happybirthday to James Franklin

by on February 01, 2015 11:30 PM

Today, the tables are turned.

Want 2 take the time 2 wish a member of OUR FAMILY Happy B-Day, @coachjFranklin, hope u enjoy ur day! #PSUnrivaled #107kStrong #WeAreFamily

Penn State coach James Franklin sends out a variation of the above message to his 97,900 Twitter followers almost every day.

The only difference from Tweet to Tweet is the birthday boy or girl who’s about to be all-atwitter over the Franklin-minted B-Day wish.

The Penn State head coach is an equal opportunity birthday greetings giver, sending out good wishes to players, recruits, coaches, staffers and friends near and far.

Today, the tables are turned. On Feb. 2, 2015, James Franklin of State College, Pa., Langhorne, Pa., and about a dozen stops in-between, turns 43. It's his birthday.

Not so surprisingly, it's just two days away from National Letter of Intent signing day, when Franklin is expected to get 24 – maybe even 25 – gifted high school seniors and JC transfers whose presence he hopes will hasten Penn State’s rebuilding process.

Like nearly everything else in his life, Franklin is ecstatic about where his birthday falls on the calendar, just 33 days into the new year. Some years, signing day coincides with Franklin’s birthday.

“It’s a sign you’re supposed to be a college football coach when your birthday falls on signing day,” he said a few years ago. “I like college more than the NFL because you can have as many first-round draft choices as you decide to get.”

Four years ago, just a few months into his tenure as head coach at Vanderbilt, his birthday fell exactly on signing day. And at a miniature version of the Signature Day event that Penn State will host on Wednesday, Franklin was feted with a black and gold birthday cake. See it here.

What will he get in 2015? Well, in some ways, the 365 days since his last birthday have already taken the cake with Franklin. How? Let us count the ways.

The NCAA sanctions are gone. All of them. And yes, we know that the effects will linger for a couple of years.

Penn State went bowling. Early. And won. With a walk-off PAT. 

He has not one, but two new bosses, in Barron and Barbour.

He’s signed 49 recruits to scholarships (the 2014 NLI day was Feb. 5). Compare that to just two years ago, when Penn State and Bill O'Brien were looking at 65 scholarship players – for the entire roster.

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He’s cashed $4.5 million worth of paychecks.

Anthony Zettel decided not to cash it in with the NFL.

Christian Hackenberg showed in Yankee Stadium that he is still money. 

A.D. Sandy Barbour wrote some big checks, present and for the future as well, showing confidence in Franklin in the process. She boosted Bob Shoop’s take-pay and promised to find boosters who will pay for an architectural infusion of “wow” to match Franklin’s own brand already there.

No one Pryed Brent.

Franklin put his money where his mouth is, in one of the very most important ways. In the classroom. With Franklin’s prodding and longtime football academic support services coordinator Todd Kulka’s guidance, Penn State had a record-setting academic performance during the fall 2014 semester. Fifty-one squad members had at least a 3.0 grade-point average, second-highest in PSU history, and 21 true freshmen posted a 3.0 GPA or better.

Franklin got his #107k only once, against Ohio State, but attendance overall in Beaver Stadium went up by 5,036 fans a game in 2014 – the fifth-highest increase among Power Five teams that didn’t build bigger venues in the offseason. That added $2.7 million to Penn State’s depleted coffers.

That thrilling 31-24 overtime loss to the Buckeyes was as close to a win as you can get, unless you count the nail-biters that book-ended the season in Dublin and the Bronx. Beating the Jersey Boys was pretty eventful too.

Adding 200 yards to the walk from the blue buses to the Beaver Stadium south end zone entrance may have added to the tradition. It’s not often that more is better.

He believed in Sam Ficken. And vice versa.

There were helicopter rides, Steelers training camp, car washes in Bristol and a caravan stop at Rudy’s. Daughters Addy and Shola starred as post-game interview faces, in team photo day chases and golf cart races.

And lots of selfies. And Tweets. And more selfies.

So today, on Feb. 2, as Franklin readies to receive his second class of recruits and the first full group that is fully his own, he’ll most certainly be at Penn State again at this time next year – for both his birthday and his third recruiting class. (Kind of a rarity at PSU lately.)

Perhaps, then, Franklin’s biggest gift right now -- for giving and for receiving, forgiving and believing -- is his presence. His ever-present, positive presence.

But as the coach himself knows better than anyone, it’s not a real celebration until you wrap up a lot of victories.

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