Former Oklahoma wide receiver Willie Franklin will attend the Sooners' game Saturday night against Missouri. At the 40-yard line, Franklin will sit next to former OU greats Eddie Hinton and Bobby Warmack.
Franklin, though, will be wearing black and gold. He will be rooting for the Tigers.
For good reason.
His son, James, is Missouri's starting quarterback.
Born in Edmond, James Franklin wanted to play for the Sooners, but they recruited him as an athlete. James wanted to be a dual threat quarterback.
“When he was growing up, I would take him to OU alumni games and OU-Texas games,” Willie said. “When he visited (Norman) on junior day, they had the biggest class of junior quarterbacks. It crushed him. He had been raised pretty much an OU fan.”
It was an easy decision when the choice came down to playing quarterback or wearing crimson and cream.
And the Tigers are grateful.
“For us, it was quarterback the whole way,” Missouri offensive and recruiting coordinator Dave Yost said. “He's smooth and athletic. I don't know what else he'd play if he didn't play quarterback because he's not vertically the fastest guy out there.”
Franklin, 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, is big, especially for a quarterback. He nearly was that big in middle school, which played a role in his family moving to Corinth, Texas.
Just to play football, Willie required James to do 100 push-ups a night in the fourth grade, 200 a day in the fifth grade. Two years after meeting his father's requirements, James weighed 185 pounds.
The family at the time lived in Rolla, Mo. Rolla city officials said James was 50 pounds too heavy to play little league football.
One of Willie's friends, J.W. Lively, a former college defensive coordinator, suggested the family move to Corinth, a suburb north of Denton. Willie got a job as campus minister at North Texas University.
At that point, James was 6-foot, 200 pounds in the seventh grade.
Eight years later, James Franklin is the next highly touted Missouri quarterback. He's following in the footsteps of Blaine Gabbert, who will start Sunday for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Brad Smith, a dual threat quarterback Franklin often is compared to.
Franklin is fifth in the Big 12 in total offense, averaging 231 passing yards and 52 rushing yards a game.
“He's intense, but he's expressionless,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “Bombs are going off, and he's looking at you like everything's fine and dandy. I like that confident poise he has.”
That poise comes from lessons instilled by his father, a San Diego native who played at OU in 1970 and '71 after being an All-American in football and track at Mesa Community College.
In a story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch the week of Missouri's season opener, James talked about how much his father, a religious and motivational speaker, has molded his life, explaining why he's calm under pressure.
“When you're angry, the first thing you want to do is just explode,” James said in the article. “But the way I was raised, and what is taught Biblically, is to take it in, wait, however long it actually takes for you to calm down, then think about what you do before you make a mistake.”
Those values were taught to him by his parents. He's the son of a black father and a white mother, Pam, who was a swimmer for Wyoming.
His parents served as missionaries in New Guinea. They believe in discipline, lessons Willie learned while playing at OU, lessons he applied to Christianity when he “felt the calling” during two seasons with the Baltimore Colts.
James told the story of how his father used a shortened rowboat paddle, a 3-feet long, 6 inches wide and 1-inch thick, to spank James and his three older sisters when they were out of line.
After receiving a paddling, Willie would discuss why it was a bad decision, hugged his children and then prayed with them. James estimated he was paddled more than 30 times.
“You know kids, they exaggerate,” Willie said, chuckling. “He probably got paddled two or three times. James was a good kid. I didn't have to paddle him much. I paddled his sisters more than him. But if you keep that paddle visible, it gets their attention.”
Those life lessons helped mold James into the quarterback that will lead Missouri against the top-ranked Sooners on Saturday night.
Willie said it won't be difficult to root against his alma mater.
“I've had my time. This is his time,” Willie said. “I don't root for the team to win or lose as much I root for them to compete hard and execute with what they've worked on, which should make for an exciting game.”
Willie Franklin couldn't attend last year's OU-Missouri game in Columbia because he had a speaking engagement at Edmond Church of Christ.
A year later, he's looking forward to the rematch, the first time his son has faced the Sooners.
“Bobby Warmack and a lot of us have stayed friends throughout the years,” Willie Franklin said. “When he called and told me he had a ticket, he said there would be no arguments. He said I could wear my black and gold. He just wants me to come so we can enjoy the evening together.”
(AP contributed to this story)