Penn State Football: James Franklin is Among Denny Douds’ Many Victories
Editor’s Note: This is the 11th in a series previewing Penn State football, part of the countdown to the Blue-White Game on April 12 by StateCollege.com and Onward State. Read the previous stories here.
Fifty years separate the first time and the last time Denny Douds came to Penn State to engage in a little football chalk talk.
In between, all Douds did was command an NCAA Division record number of games as the head football coach at East Stroudsburg – 418.
That’s 418 and counting. (Why not? The Warriors were 7-4 in 2013, winning three of their last four games.)
In between, Douds had 244 victories, molded over 1,000 lettermen and developed more than 180 future football coaches, including seven currently in the NFL.
Among Doud’s protégés is Penn State head coach James Franklin, who threw for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns as a two-year starting quarterback for Douds in 1993-94 and also was a grad assistant in 1996.
Douds is 73, possesses wisdom that comes at 83, looks 63 and coaches like he’s 43. Only thing is, that last number is five years less than what he’s been in the college game. Counting his eight years as an assistant, Douds has been at East Stroudsburg for 48 seasons. His four decades as a head college football coach at one school is surpassed by only four men – one of them a guy by the name of Joe Paterno
“If you’re 15 years old or 80 years old, and you played at East Stroudsburg,” Franklin said, engaging in only mild hyperbole at a coaches clinic a few weeks ago, "you've played for Denny Douds.”
Until recently, Douds served as his own defensive coordinator. He still teaches “The Principals of Coaching,” which meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. The early start deters no one – Douds stuffs 35 kids into a class designed for 25. Over the past half-century, he’s taught 20 different courses at ESU.
DOUDS: MINTING FRANKLIN
To truly get James Franklin, it helps to meet Denny Douds. Franklin’s enthusiasm and energy aren’t boundless. They’re Doudsless. Coaching trees are, in reality, really family trees. Dominate the State was the East Stroudsburg way of being road Warriors, seeking hidden Keystone State gems like a gritty and confident QB from Neshaminy High. Both are follically challenged.
Now, knowing that, guess which head coach said this (hint: it's Douds):
“If you take your profession seriously, you are responsible for what you team does on the field in the fall and what they do 365 days a year. You have a responsibility to your community, to your families, to the profession.”
The first time Franklin came to Penn State was as a high school QB from Langhorne, Pa., making the journey for summer camp. He didn’t return until the second week of January 2014, when he was named the school’s 16th head football coach.
The first time Douds – a native of Indiana, Pa., and a two-way football starter at Slippery Rock -- came to University Park was in 1964, when he was an assistant football coach at Erie McDowell High School. (McDowell was in the midst of a 17-year losing streak.) He was on his way back from a coaches convention in Atlantic City with legendary Notre Dame and Pitt line coach Joe Moore, a fellow assistant in Erie, when the two veered off to see Moore’s old friend, Penn State assistant Dan Radakovich.
They visited the football offices in Rec Hall; met Paterno and some other assistants; went to lunch with a G.A. named Dick Anderson after the volleyball class he was teaching ended; and took part in an impromptu tackling drill at Radakovich’s house. Recalls Douds: “We were staying at Rad’s house. At 3 o’clock in the morning we moved all the furniture up against the wall and Rad started beating the living daylights out of me, showing me a technique.”
THE JAMES FRANKLIN GANG
Douds’ most recent visit? Not counting Sunday’s National Football Foundation banquet, you have to go all the way back to … last Wednesday.
That’s when The James Franklin Gang was in town.
It’s a college football custom for staffs from other schools to often spend a few days on other campuses, to learn philosophies, strategies and X’s and O’s. Normally, it wouldn’t be unusual for coaches from a well-established, highly-respected program, like East Stroudsburg walking the halls of a BCS school.
“Through the years, we’ve been in every Division I school from Michigan, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Alabama to Florida State,” Douds said. “Draw a line from there up to Boston College and draw a circle around it and we’ve been there. Visits are great. Whatever you go for, it’s magnified. You might go to see an offensive play or a defensive coverage, but you also could see something in their weight room or a sign here or something there.”
In Douds’ case last week, in addition to picking the brains of a staff that went 16-4 in its final 20 gams at Vanderbilt, the something there was Franklin and Brent Pry. Pry is the Nittany Lions’ assistant head coach, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Douds knows him well. Pry’s dad was a Douds assistant for over a decade, and Brent was an East Stroudsburg assistant coach in 1993-94 (not so coincidentally when Franklin was the teams’ starting QB).
“I got to see two of our kids (Franklin and Pry) in great form,” Douds said. “People ask, 'What’s that like?' Well, how does it look when your son or daughter does something great for the family? And that’s the appreciation that we got this week. It’s interesting to take a look at how he’s putting it all together – in the organization, on the field, in the university, in the community, the state.
“As for the X’s and O’s … we had a few of those, too.”
Accompanying Douds were two other FOF’s – Friends Of Franklin. Mike Santella, the Warriors’ current offensive line coach and Franklin’s roommate at East Stroudsburg, joined Douds. As did offensive coordinator Mike Terwilliger, Franklin’s college quarterback coach and a former ESU quarterback himself. Terwilliger’s son, Jimmy, was a four-year starter at QB, setting NCAA Division II records for passing yards and touchdowns (a whopping 148).
“I was a Division II guy that’s had to work for everything he’s got in this profession,” Franklin said when he was hired by Penn State, “but I’ve had great experience and had a chance to work for a bunch of really good guys.”
That pride was on display Sunday. At a press conference before the NFF banquet, where Franklin was the featured speaker, he was asked about his smaller school roots.
“When you say ‘smaller school,’ what do you mean?” Franklin rapid-fired back.
“Bloomsburg,” came the reply. “Those types of schools.”
Franklin bristled a bit, then responded with a grin: “Bloomsburg may be small. But East Stroudsburg is not small. Speak for yourself.”