James Franklin’s consistency leads him to 100 career wins
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — If there’s one word to describe James Franklin, it would be consistent.
Franklin has been coaching for 12 seasons, and in Penn State’s 55-10 victory on Saturday, he reached the century mark in wins.
After receiving the game ball from athletic director Patrick Kraft, Franklin entered a makeshift media room and addressed a room full of reporters.
“Like always — I know I say this, and you guys probably ignore the first statement — but I do appreciate you guys coming out and covering Penn State football,” said Franklin. “I also appreciate the people you work for allowing it because the industry obviously has changed a lot. So, we appreciate you guys coming out and covering Penn State football and the support that we get.”
He then began to go into detail about all the stats from Saturday’s contest, as he does after every game. Franklin is very consistent, and he knows it, as he acknowledged that in the first sentence of his opening statement.
His consistency has allowed him to have success over his career.
Franklin began his coaching career at Vanderbilt, inheriting a program that was one of the worst teams in the SEC. In his three seasons, he compiled a 24-15 record.
He then moved on and took the job at Penn State, and the university was looking to move past arguably the worst scandal in college football history.
During his nine seasons in Happy Valley, Franklin has a 76-36 record and a Big Ten championship in 2016. What has allowed Franklin to be so successful with the Nittany Lions is his 1-0 mentality that he and his players preach.
The Langhorne, Pennsylvania, native has stuck with the same mentality during the highs and lows of his career. There have been several lows, such as going 11-11 in 2020 and 2021, paired with his inability to beat ranked teams.
The blue and white have compiled an 11-22 record against top 25 opponents, and Franklin knows those are the games that will be talked about.
“I get it,” Franklin said last week. “There are games that people are going to focus on and talk about these being what they would say are big games or really important games. But the consistency is also important. We’ve seen programs also have big wins, but they lose two or three games that they’re not supposed to. What you’re really trying to do is do both, which is challenging.”
One of the main differences between 2021 and 2022 has been Penn State’s ability to respond after losing the big game.
Last season, the Nittany Lions fell to No. 3 Iowa and proceeded to lose the next two games derailing a once-promising campaign.
However, this campaign saw the blue and white lose 44-31 to No. 2 Ohio State, but it rebounded in a big way outscoring its next three opponents 130-24.
It’s very difficult to remain consistent in a profession and conference that sees coaching changes every season.
In his nine years in the Big Ten, there have been 39 other head and interim head football coaches, with Nebraska, Rutgers and Illinois having each had five.
Only Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald have been tenured longer in the Big Ten than Franklin.
Consistency also helps to recruit, as players know what they’re getting with Franklin as their head coach.
Curtis Jacobs came to Happy Valley as one of the nation's top talents, and three seasons later, he strives to be like Franklin because of his consistency.
“That is the most consistent man I’ve ever met in my life,” Jacobs said. “He said things my freshman year, and I’m like, ‘All right, he’s a coach, and he says that stuff.’ (Now) he comes in and still says that stuff every day. I honestly strive to get that type of discipline in my life because he honestly has the most consistent manner.”
Now three seasons into his collegiate career, Jacobs has become an elite player and one of the leaders of the defense.
Jacobs isn’t the only player on the defense impacted by Franklin and his consistency.
Ji’Ayir Brown spent two seasons at Lackawanna community college before coming to Penn State, and he’s turned himself into one of the nation’s top safeties.
Brown and Franklin have become extremely close over the past few years, and Brown noticed he hasn’t changed much in three years.
“Coach Franklin has been the same since I got here,” Brown said. “He’s the same person. He says the same things to give the same messages from when I got here in 2020 to where I’m at right now in 2022."
“Consistency is probably one of the hardest traits to obtain. And this guy is the most consistent person I’ve ever met in my life. I’m telling you, he wears the same clothes on practice days. That’s how consistent he is. You got to admire that about a guy because that’s one of the hardest things to do in this world — to be consistent. And he does that, you know, more than anybody I know in this world."
“When you have that kind of role model in front of you as a head coach, we all in the program look up to Coach Franklin. He shows us day in and day out how consistent he is as a coach and as a family man, and as a man, period. Me personally, I pick up on it, you know? I try to live my life to be consistent. Having a coach who is like that — you know, it’s what makes men into boys.”
Another constant for Franklin over the past four seasons has been his starting quarterback.
Franklin and Sean Clifford have spent the past six campaigns together, with Clifford becoming the first-ever four-time captain in program history.
Clifford announced his decision to join Franklin’s program on July 13, 2015, just one day before his 17th birthday.
Starting with his commitment, Clifford has been there for 2,687 of Franklin’s 3,235 days at Penn State.
Now at 24 and his collegiate career coming to a close, Clifford is grateful for all that Franklin has done for him.
“Coach Franklin sets the tone for everybody,” Clifford said. “He gets in early and stays late. He’s the same guy every single day. Everybody has their ups and downs. Coach Franklin is somebody who’s very consistent with his work ethic and how he drives the culture, the players and the coaches.
“He’s just the most consistent dude. That’s why there’s so much respect in our locker room for him.”
Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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