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Franklins are Sooners by heart but Tigers by choice

BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, mbaldwin@opubco.com Published: September 22, 2011

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.

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