Penn State Football: The Five People James Franklin Meets On The Caravan
It's safe to say that James Franklin is a people person.
He's comfortable in a crowded room, shaking hands, taking photos, and getting his message out to fans and observers.
The entire social aspect of being a college football coach is often overlooked, but you only have to spend a short amount of time with Franklin to see how he is able to win over the hearts and minds of recruits across the region.
So as Franklin takes the next two weeks to travel on Penn State's coaching caravan, he'll get a chance to win over plenty of fans he has yet to meet. There will be 17 stops jam packed with all kinds of fans from all walks of life with plenty of questions and plenty of cameras.
"I think it’s one thing to watch a press conference, and I think it’s another thing to read a story," Franklin said at the tour opening stop in State College.
"It’s a completely other thing to meet somebody and get a chance to interact with them face to face and shake hands and I hope through not only the last few months we’ve been here, but also through this caravan that people feel even stronger after this last caravan, the 17th stop, and people say, ‘You know what, I’m comfortable with the direction of Penn State football. I’m really comfortable with the leadership and really excited about our future' and that’s kind of our job.
"Every time we go do a speaking event or get out and get a chance to meet people, if they’re not on the Penn State bandwagon when we start talking, I hope they are by the time we get done."
Franklin is going to get the chance to meet people for sure, and here are five he'll run across at almost every stop.
1. But First Let Me Take A Selfie
Collecting autographs is fine. Getting the autograph up on Ebay before Franklin is done signing your suspiciously clean football is probably why we can't have nice things. In a world of cell phones and selfies, an autograph is a good way to remember meeting someone. That being said you can bet that each stop will include at least one person taking a selfie with Franklin before the meet and greet is over. Offensive linemen leave the NFL with mangled fingers, James Franklin is going to leave the caravan with his index finger stuck in the No.1 position and a hand cramp.
2. The Legacy Defender
James Franklin has met a lot of people, but he hasn't run into the guy with the 45-page printed out PDF about Joe Paterno's legacy. Franklin has done a good job so far giving Paterno his due at just about every turn, but there is no good way to segue out of a passionate conversation in the middle of a crowded room. It's a reasonable question to ask, but like the uniforms, it can be asked one too many times. Bonus points if any fans direct Franklin to their favorite websites related to the ongoing debate. Extra bonus points if they ask him to hold the 45-page document as they "get their phone out" and then just walk away.
3. The Strategist
The best way to impress a coach during your 15 seconds in the spotlight is to string together a question about nickel defenses and blitz packages and hope you put two applicable concepts together so the question makes sense. This is less likely to happen for Franklin since he has yet to coach a game at Penn State, but somebody will do their best to show off some film study. It's certainly not unreasonable to ask a football coach a football question, but chances are you don't need to explain the concept of a zone-read offense just to show everyone you can. Especially if you happen to be wrong.
4. The Unanswerable Question
Question and answer periods are always interesting because there is nothing anyone can do to stop someone from asking the unanswerable question. Things like "should all senior citizens be exempt from paying STEP program fees" or something completely outside the realm of Franklin's abilities will be a nice test to see how quickly he can pivot out of these situations. It's hard to define an unanswerable question, but they're coming.
*Over the course of 17 stops someone is going to ask Franklin about the Vanderbilt rape case and while unanswerable in a legal sense, that's a fair point to raise.
*"I've never been to a game can I please have free tickets" is opening as an early favorite in the Penn State caravan casino.
5. Hardcore To The Max
Somebody is going to show up with either A: Face paint B: The need to hug Franklin or C: The need to use an inhaler as they're about to meet Franklin or D: A combination of the above coupled with completely forgetting what they were going to say to Franklin. D will likely be followed up by spending the rest of the night thinking of everything you meant to say but forgot to.
Being a hardcore fan is fine, it's fun, and nobody should be blamed for having passions. That being said it's also a chance for Franklin to test out his first responder skills if somebody just can't quite handle the interaction. Also possible is that a person will yell "We Are" so loudly that someone reminds said fan that everyone can hear just fine and "inside voices" don't just apply to school.
In the end, none of the above types of fans Franklin will meet are bad. Not everyone is a candidate to host Meet The Press (press included) and if shaking James Franklin's hand wasn't exciting they wouldn't have a meet and greet. But needless to say Franklin will meet all walks over the next two weeks and it should be an enjoyable experience for all.
*Why Am I Here?: Friend had an extra ticket at the last minute, "I don't even go to Penn State and I'm not a fan of football." Followed up closely by the children who don't want their picture taken but Dad says "When you're older you'll be glad you did" and forced smiles ensue.
*The Media: Franklin thought he was saying goodbye until the summer when he left the State College stop. Little does he know that a good number of the usual suspects on the beat will be following him stop to stop. If he doesn't ask "Why are you still here?" at least once that's only because he's being polite. Rest assured he'll be thinking it.
-Small credit to fellow StateCollege.com writer Mike Poorman for the idea. He spent his time writing something more thoughtful which you can read here.