Feleipe Franks Should Be Remembered in a Positive Light at Florida
Feleipe Franks’ roller coaster of a career ended abruptly earlier this September after Dan Mullen’s starting quarterback suffered a gruesome season-ending injury. Horrified, I remember thinking “I sure hope I didn’t just see Feleipe Franks play his final down of football in the orange and blue.”
However, as Kyle Trask went on to have a storied underdog season under center, my fears continued to rise closer to the surface – if Franks returned to the program next season he’d be entering a three-man race for the starting quarterback spot.
If Trask’s success continued, would he be the go-ahead favorite in the spring? If Feleipe Franks returned to the roster, could he earn the job back? Where would Emory Jones fall in the rotation? Would Jones be tempted to transfer?
On Sunday afternoon, an Instagram post from Feleipe Franks added a dose of clarity to the situation – he’d be leaving the Florida football program. My fears had been confirmed.
I didn’t fear Franks’ departure because I wanted him to be the starter next season (I didn’t not want him to start next year either), instead, I feared his departure because I just didn’t want to see them go out in the fashion that he did.
My lasting image of Franks is of him face down on Kroger Field with Dan Mullen at his side before being carted off the field with tear-filled eyes, gripping at a towel.
And after Franks' time at Florida, it's hard to say that that one image captures the former starting quarterback’s legacy.
Feleipe Franks was never vulnerable. He was, in my opinion, charismatic, full of tenacity and a living, breathing example of the Gator Standard that Dan Mullen strives for.
And that is what I’ll miss most about Franks.
As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Franks was thrown into the season opener against Michigan in Jim McElwain’s last season opener as head coach. After a 5-for-9 outing for just 75 yards in the first half, Franks was benched as Notre Dame transfer, Malik Zaire took over the second half.
This was just the beginning of Franks’ turbulent time at Florida.
The 2017 season was a rough outing for the redshirt freshman as he was, undoubtedly, throwing into the fire we call SEC football much too early. With little time to develop in Gainesville, Franks fell victim to Florida Faithful’s lofty expectations.
After an underwhelming start to Franks’ career, which was highlighted by his 63-yard game-winning Hail Mary to Tyrie Cleveland to down the Tennessee Volunteers, most of Gator Nation was unsure that Franks was the right guy to lead the Gators.
In turn, he became a whipping post for criticism.
Even when Dan Mullen, who is considered a quarterback guru, came to Gainesville, there were still plenty of Feleipe Franks doubters. If anyone could make Franks grow, it would be Mullen. Yet skeptics continued to congregate – tainted by what they saw the season before.
However, 2018 showed that Franks’ ceiling was much higher than anyone could have thought.
In Mullen’s first game back in Gainesville, the Gators torched Charleston Southern 53-6. In the opening win, Franks threw for 219 yards and five touchdowns. Later that season, Franks threw for a career high of 284 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the Gators’ win over Vanderbilt.
However, three weeks later against Missouri, things really got rocky for Franks.
In playing one of the worst pass defenses in the country, Franks finished his limited playing time 9-for-22 for 84 yards and two costly interceptions in Florida’s humbling 36-17 loss to the Missouri Tigers.
I was in attendance that game. And I’ll never forget the sound of the boos as they bounced off the orange walls of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
And that’s me – as a spectator. I can’t imagine what was going through Franks’ head as he was being booed by his home crowd. If I can still hear them, I know for certain he can, too. Which, in my opinion, totally justified his decision to raise his index finger to his lips as he shushed his home fans as the Gators came from behind to knockoff the South Carolina Gamecocks the next week.
And from that point forward, we saw a different version of Feleipe Franks. One that handled criticism differently. One that was like a scolded child looking to be rebellious.
It took him a while, but Franks got to the point where he wasn’t going to listen to his naysayers. Or, better yet, he was going to listen to them… he just wasn’t going to care.
And those that disliked the way he displayed his emotions were the same that criticized him for “being too quiet for a leadership role”.
Guys express themselves differently. Not every quarterback that comes to Florida will act like a Danny Weurffel or Tim Tebow.
And guess what? That’s okay.
The reality is Feleipe wasn’t perfect. Not on the field. Not off of the field.
But he was good. He was good on the field. He was good off of the field. And believe me when I say it, he loved being a Gator with every ounce of his body. And to me, that’s enough.
Feleipe Franks was good enough.
To ride the bucking bull of a college career like Franks has is more than impressive. I can’t think of any kid his age that would’ve handled the cards he was dealt any better.
I won’t say his ride was graceful, because it wasn’t. But his ride was gritty. And I hate to see it end here.
Yet, at the end of the day, this is a guy we all want to see succeed. He has talent. He has swagger (plenty of it). And more than anything, he has heart.
Wherever Franks heads next, he is sure to turn heads. Or better yet, he is sure to silence his doubters.