HOOVER, Ala. — Standing tall above dozens of cameras, recorders and the media members holding them Feleipe Franks stood in a slim grey suit with shiny black shoes tied neatly. He answered questions, some repeated as new reporters walked up and re-asked things that had been asked before they joined the media scrum.
He was pleasant, which he hasn’t always been at times during his career. He joked; he opened up about meeting Gator fans around Gainesville and how much joy it brings him to see how happy they are now. He talked about his baby niece Jade, who was at every practice this spring and then in her uncle’s arms after practice. He talked about expectations, mistakes, and triumphs and through it all he looked like he belonged.
Bringing him to SEC Media Days was a stamp of approval from Dan Mullen. This if Franks’ team and there were at points during last season where not only was it a question whether Franks would be at SEC Media Days in Hoover, but if he would even be the starting quarterback.
Mullen opened up the competition after the Gators lost consecutive games to Georgia and Missouri. Many people around the program thought that Kyle Trask would get the nod against South Carolina but Trask broke his left foot in a freak accident during practice leading up to the game.
The Gators went down 14-0 quickly and trailed 21-14 at halftime of that game and 31-14 at one point. That’s when Franks’ season turned around. He was incredible in the second half. He torched Florida State and Michigan to close out the season and has carried that momentum into the offseason.
Franks admittedly was thrown into the first too quickly by the previous coaching staff. He wanted to start, like any freshman in the country would, but he wasn’t ready.
“I didn’t think there would be that much pressure,” Franks said when asked what he learned about being the starting quarterback at the University of Florida. “I’ve always said pressure is privilege. If you don’t like the pressure you’re in the wrong position or sport. I love to be in when it’s 4th and 1 and we need a touchdown. I love to be in that position.”
It wasn’t always like that. Franks clashed with fans on social media; he was booed and hushed fans after a touchdown. He read tweets, as literally everyone his age does and he reacted.
“I said, ‘If you think there’s someone better than Brian Johnson out there (on Twitter), I’ll hire them,” Mullen told Franks. “If you think everyone on Twitter out there is better at coaching football, let me know and we’ll hire them as quarterbacks coach.”
He’s matured so much in that time thanks in large part to a strong support system at home. His brother Jordan spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals last season but is in Gainesville with his brother often. He helped Feleipe grow up and Franks also has had to take on the responsibility of growing up and learning to deal with success and failure on the fly while under a microscope.
“I had to get out of my comfort zone stepping into the University of Florida that comes with playing the quarterback position. Getting out of your comfort zone being open to everybody else. I think that’s what I’ve been doing a better job at,” he said. “Telling people that I am open to you; everything I have is open to you at the same time. You just have that mutual respect in the locker room.”
He’s earned the respect of the locker room. He’s also had an eventful offseason that included getting drafted by the Boston Red Sox. Franks hasn’t played baseball since his junior season of high school but signed a cool $40,000 contract with Boston. That won’t affect his eligibility with the Gators and it doesn’t change his plans. He has a single goal. Franks wants to win. He wants to beat Miami and Towson, get revenge on Kentucky and Georgia and he wants to win the SEC.