NORMAN — Daniel Franklin counts choosing Oklahoma as his college football destination, then staying there the last five years — throughout a career some might label a disappointment — among the greatest decisions he's ever made.
Bachelor's and master's degrees in hand, the former Sooner linebacker who never started a single game heads to law school grateful for everything college football gave him.
“Even though it didn't turn into a professional career, the character development and the opportunities that have come after that ... I got a free education,” Franklin said. “I got a master's degree. I'm going to law school. It opened up so many doors for me.”
A couple weeks have passed since new Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury's staff declined to renew lineman J.J. Lollar's scholarship, sparking a renewed discussion about the practice.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, speaking to reporters last week in Plano, Texas, during an OU Caravan appearance, said he's never cut a player short purely because he didn't contribute much on the field.
“To me, it's a sad deal if coaches cut players,” Stoops said. “Unless, he's had criminal activity, he's had academic fraud or problems there ... we've never cut a guy short.”
Not even a former three-star linebacker from Mount Airy, Ga., — ranked that year by Rivals as the nation's 24th-best prospect at his position — who played in the 2008 Under-Armour All-American Game before eventually realizing how physically overmatched he was at OU.
“A beautiful kid,” Stoops said of Franklin. “I love the kid. I love seeing him every day and that's college football. We had an awesome experience with the kid, and he created value for our football team.”
Franklin redshirted as a true freshman in 2008, then appeared in 41 games, mostly on special teams, recording only one career tackle. As a senior, he served as the team's long snapper on punts.
He admitted that he considered transferring to another school where he might play more, but said those feelings only lasted about one summer.
“I loved OU,” Franklin said. “I had committed to play football at OU. I gave my word and that's where I wanted to be.”
Franklin said college football was a “reality check” for him because, like many high-school football standouts, he'd rarely stopped to consider life after the game.
“I think a lot of young athletes spend, really, their entirely youth tacitly presuming they're gonna play football forever,” Franklin said. “They never seen an end in sight.
“For me, it became quite apparent at a pretty early stage that I was gonna need to do something else besides play football.”
Franklin's goal of becoming a starting linebacker at OU never came to pass, but because of that, he learned an important lesson that he'll remember the rest of his life.
“I think too often, people forget that organizations and businesses and law firms are really teams,” said Franklin, who hasn't decided on a law school just yet but is leaning toward the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.
“You may not get to do exactly what you want to do, but at the end of the day, you have to do your part so that organization as a whole can function. I hope my experience at OU will help me transition into that professional life where I need to do a specific role to help an organization function.”