Feleipe Franks has lost count of how many tattoos he has. There’s a paw print on his finger for his dog, here’s script on his ribs, a tattoo on his wrist and his chest but one of his bigger pieces is a lion on his left shoulder.
“When I look at animals I’d rather be a lion than a cat,” Franks said Monday. “You know what I mean? The alpha dog that’s what comes to mind when I see or when I hear alpha dog. Just a lion. Someone that’s relentless. Someone that perseveres with whatever gets thrown at (them) somebody that won’t go out without a fight. Somebody that loves to win in everything they do at life — not even in football but in life.”
Franks’ introduction to Gator Nation wasn’t great and he’s had to fight for everything he has now. His frame and howitzer for an arm seduced Jim McElwain who was labeled a quarterback whisperer and he threw Franks into action before he was ready against a Michigan team licking its chops against a freshman.
That season went as poorly on the field as it did off the field an when Dan Mullen came the question was, “Can you fix Feleipe Franks?”
The first season with Mullen was a mixed bag to start. Franks was good against Charleston Southern but not against Kentucky. He completed just 52% of his pass attempts against Colorado State and Tennessee in the weeks to come before a good performance against Mississippi State. The season continued but Franks was almost pulled as the starter after losses to Georgia and Missouri in consecutive weeks. It wasn’t until the South Carolina game, not even the whole game — just the second half — that Franks turned a corner.
He lit up every team the rest of the way and somewhere along the way he found himself.
Dan Mullen says he’s looking for an alpha dog but wasn’t ready to give Franks that kind praise just yet. “I have a pretty high bar for that,” Mullen said.
Franks didn’t sit back and rest on the last month of the season as an “I told you so.” He brought that mentality and new confidence with him. Lamical Perine told reporters at SEC Media Days that Franks is one of the first guys to the field or the weight room and always one of the last two leave. Franks would get receivers together at all hours of the night and throw passes under the lights of Florida’s indoor practice facility.
That seems like an alpha dog mentality.
“I think that’s a little bit of both. I’ve always thought of myself as an alpha dog but at the same time I think it’s something you acquire more as confidence grows,” Franks said. “I think it’s a little bit of both.”
He’s always been confident in himself and his ability but until you see that hard work translate to success on the field you’re never truly confident. Franks took that and he’s building off of it. He’s spent more time on the field on his own and with his teammates than he ever has. He’s mastered the playbook, there won’t be long bewildered stares over to the sideline this season. He owns this offense and Mullen knows it. Franks has the green light to audible and check out of Mullen’s offensive calls if he sees something in a pre-snap read. It takes a lot of trust for a coach to hand that kind of power over to a quarterback but Mullen knows Franks has earned it.
“I think he’s already improved more during the offseason than he did throughout last season on the field,” Mullen said of Franks. “In his performance and understanding the system and decision making and making plays. It is the big picture of the quarterback . It’s every intangible that comes with that. How do you manage the game? Your decision making, your leadership, your mental and physical toughness. All of those are aspects of things at the quarterback position that I think he’s taking huge strides at more than he’s completing a higher percentage of his passes. I’ve seen him do all the off the field stuff at a much, much higher level.”
This is the year for Franks to really shine. It’s his third year playing and second in Dan Mullen’s quarterback friendly system.
He’s always been a competitor since day one,” Josh Hammond said. “He’s been through so much. He’s always kept his poise and kept pushing, kept pushing, and kept pushing. He found his way back on top.”
The road Franks has taken to get to this point hasn’t been easy. There have been benchings and Twitter mobs calling for him to transfer. There has been doubt both internally and externally but he’s come through it all and this is his year to show it.