Penn State Caravan: Franklin Begins Caravan Tour Where Perception Is Key
Shirts were laid out on a table listing 17 dates and locations like that of a nationally touring band.
If you had not looked closely you may have thought the pomp and circumstance was celebrating the release of a new album and the start of a worldwide tour rather than a talk by Penn State's newest head football coach.
The wording on the shirts called the event the Penn State Coaches Caravan, but a sunny Tuesday morning on the Penn State York campus truly served as the opening show on James Franklin's Introduction Tour that will feature 17 stops over the next two weeks.
While Franklin may not have played any songs on Tuesday, his vision of bringing the Penn State football program back to national relevance was likely music to the ears the sold out crowd.
For Franklin and for fans a like, the event is the first of many where both will get to know each other face to face. Franklin may not remember all the names and quick interactions will not forever be imprinted on his mind, but the culmination of meetings will give Franklin a better idea of who he really represents. It's an intimate setting to meet all the walks of life that make up the Penn State fan base.
So far it has been a continuing process for Franklin who still lives in his office at the Lasch Football Building. His family has a new home in State College but neither he nor his family have moved there at this time. Franklin will even admit to not even knowing the address to his new home. The few scarce times Franklin has ventured beyond the confines of campus the motivation has been the most human of all: Food.
But even a simple trip out to the store is still a learning process for both fans and Franklin.
"We go out to dinner. There's like four restaurants in town that I've been to almost every other night." Franklin said. "I did go to Wegman's. Everybody makes this huge deal out of Wegman's. I did go to Wegman's the other day to get apples."
"I got five apples and it took me about an hour and a half. I will never do that again. I had a great Wegman's experience. I really did. It's the first time - I drove across the street and got my car washed, which was exciting as well. Went into Wegman's."
'So it was the fans who made the trip a long one?' a reporter asks.
"Yeah," Franklin says laughing. "No, the apples were delicious. Somebody tweeted out, we ate them on the bus ride here. I brought five and I thought they were going to last me the week, but the guys on the bus crushed them. Warming had about four. So, no, it was just a bunch of people coming up, wanting to say hi and say good luck. Everybody is so excited and supportive, and that's what's so unique and exciting about being the coach at Penn State. But, yeah, it took an hour and a half because of it."
Franklin was joking largely about the incident but it goes to show the still honeymoon interaction and excitement he has given the fan base. Even in this simple setting, it gave way to perhaps the most telling of quotes Franklin has said during his few months on the job.
"My issue is, a lot of people say that they don't care what other people think. I do," Franklin said. "So, when I go to Wegman's and 45 people come up to say hi, I don't want anyone that comes up to leave not having a really good impression about me, about Penn State football, about the university."
"So, it's hard to walk away from an autograph or any of these things, because I want everybody that has an interaction with Penn State football or has an interaction with me, for it to be positive. That's not always possible because sometimes you have to walk away. But that's kind of my personality."
That quote is in many ways the most important aspect of the James Franklin "Introduction Tour." It's an opportunity for Franklin to sell himself, the program and his vision to diehard fans around the region. Perception is how he has sold the program to some of the nation's best recruits and it's how he plans to sell it to the rest of the nation.
"I want to leave a good impression on everybody. People are important to me and what people think are important to me. I think that's a strength and I think that probably can be a weakness a little bit as well," he says.
Franklin's next stop on Tuesday will take him to the sweet tooth capital of the state -- Hershey. Franklin will hope to sell fans on himself and his vision yet again and while he may not remember your name, your perception is still a critical goal of the introduction tour.