“Me and my wife and my children will be out in this community,” James Franklin said at his introductory press conference. “We will not turn down a speaking engagement. We’ll get out and interact with people.”
When Franklin sat at the dais addressing the media and Nittany Nation soon after being announced as the next head coach of the football team, one could have made the argument that he was simply saying all the right things. A few weeks later, it’s clear that Franklin meant every word that he said when he promised that he wanted to be more than just a football coach in this community.
The events of National Signing Day proved that. I outlined his open door war room earlier today and how it starkly contrasted the closed door approach of Penn State football’s past. But at the end of the day, what really stands out is The Signature Event. After a long day for the football staff that started soon after the crack of dawn, Franklin didn’t want to go home and relax.
Instead, he wanted to pack as many fans into the Bryce Jordan Center as possible so he could go through each of the 25 commits in the 2014 recruiting class, explaining their strengths and why his staff decided they were fit to be the newest members of the Nittany Lion family. He sat at center court with Penn State legend LaVar Arrington, showing the crowd highlight tape of the players and discussing how they fit into his plan for the future of the program.
After Michael Mauti and LaVar Arrington each briefly spoke to the crowd, with Mauti proclaiming that there’s “no doubt in my mind that [James Franklin] is going to lead Penn State to a national championship,” the coach began introducing the class. He went through the early enrollees first before bringing them out onto the court so they could introduce themselves to the crowd. Just about every one of them was at a loss of words when trying to tell the crowd how happy they were to be in Happy Valley.
“We don’t plan on redshirting any of these guys,” Franklin said of the recruits who enrolled this semester. “We plan on all of them playing day one and they’ll need all of your support.”
The highlight of the on-court discussion might have been Arrington, though, who put on a bit of a comedy show while acting as the host and interviewing Franklin regarding his recruiting class. When discussing Troy Reeder, he said that he hopes he lives up to his last name when looking at opposing offenses. His best quote of the night came when he started talking about how surprised he was that Franklin was talking to the public about the class.
“How awesome is it that we have our coach talking to us about the recruiting class,” he said. “It’s pretty gangster, bro. It’s pretty gangster.”
The best part of the night, though, came when Franklin gave a quick speech at the event’s culmination.
“I expect everybody at the Blue & White Game showing the country what this school is about. Thank you so much for coming,” he said. “United, we can not be stopped.”
IMAGE Jenna Seco