Former Maryland OC and current Vanderbilt coach James Franklin to WNST and Terps Nation: I didn’t want to walk away”

December 22, 2010 | Ryan Chell

Ralph Friedgen.

Franklin and current New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley were the only two assistants to be retained on the staff by Friedgen.

Franklin remained as Friedgen’s wide receivers coach for five seasons until 2004, when he left the season after to fill the same position for the Green Bay Packers of the NFL.

That 2005 season, Packers WR Donald Driver had a career year, catching 86 passes for 1221 yards.

But in the professional ranks, Franklin could not do what he really loved doing best-recruiting.

It was out of his hands in the NFL, which brought him back to Kansas State, where he took the position as full-time play-caller as offensive coordinator for the Wildcats.

It was there that he turned current Tampa Bay Bucs QB Josh Freeman into a first-round pick, and receiver Jordy Nelson was a runner-up in the Biletnikoff Award.

But again, he felt at home at College Park yet again, and he finally returned to Maryland again-this time as offensive coordinator for the Terps, taking on a huge part in Friedgen’s recruiting process, and eventually being named the head coach-in waiting when Ralph Friedgen was to leave Maryland and re-taking his spot as recruiting coordinator for Friedgen-a role he initially took in 2003 before moving on to the Packers.

Ever since then has made his mark when he has been in the position to recruit prep athletes.They include the likes of this year’s ACC Rookie of the Year in quarterback Danny O’Brien(21 TDs) and wide receiver Torrey Smith(65 catches, 1.045 yards, 12 TDs) as he rode his way to All-ACC honors.

But on the cusp of a rebound year for Ralph Friedgen and the news that the Fridge would be returning for 2011 only weeks ago at that time, Franklin felt like the window for him being the next head coach of the Terps was closing fast, and with a new athletic director in place in Kevin Anderson, there was no guarantee he would get the job to begin with, prompting Franklin to start looking for and eventually taking an opportunity elsewhere while the offers were on the table.

And Vanderbilt called, and he liked what he saw, so he jumped on the opportunity. But it was a tough decision for him to make to leave College Park a second time, and this time maybe for good.

“I love the University of Maryland. I loved living in the state of Maryland. I love the Washington, D.C. area. It was really my first big break in this profession, and the people there were so good to me. There is a big part of my heart that’s at Maryland, at that university, at that community.”

“Trust me, I didn’t want to walk away from those things. It was not  an easy decision, and I love that institution. I really do, and I appreciate my time there. But the reality is there I have the opportunity to come to Vanderbilt to be the next football coach, and I couldn’t be more excited about that and that’s where my focus is on now.”

And Franklin will have quite the hill to climb for a program that despite being a member of the SEC for the 78-year history of the conference but yet can’t seem to get its football team to national prominence competing with several other football institutions in the same conference.

Franklin told Nelson and Clark that he is already preparing to tackle those challenges head on.

“It’s just like anything in life. It’s how you perceive it. Are there some challenges? Every school, organization,  any place you work has some challenges you have to overcome. But it’s how you look at that information; it’s how you present information and how you react to it. I’ve always been a guy to take the challenges that I’ve had in my life as opportunities.”

And Franklin said Vanderbilt offers more to a student-athlete that no other school in the SEC or any football school in the nation can offer-the chance to hopefully play for a team in the best football conference in the NCAA and a school that can offer you the best education money can buy.

“This is an opportunity to go attract the kind of student athletes and their families to come here and not settle. To me, that’s what life is all about-not settling for anything. Go out and chase your dreams and create your realities. That’s what you have the opportunity to do at Vanderbilt.”

“You have the chance to graduate with a world-class education while you have the chance to play in the greatest conference in college football…(cont)