A week ago Feleipe Franks was booed off the field and his replacement Kyle Trask was given a hero’s welcome when he took over. After the game Dan Mullen said they would look at the quarterback position, essentially re-opening the quarterback competition that Franks had closed back in August.
Trask broke his foot on Wednesday during practice ending the race but it didn’t end the booing. Florida won the toss, deferred and South Carolina promptly drove 83 yards on 13 plays for a touchdown. Florida responded with six plays for four yards and a punt.
The boo birds were out just eight minutes into the game. Whether they were directed at Franks, or Dan Mullen or the team it doesn’t matter. They landed.
South Carolina scored on its second drive to make the score 14-14. Florida would respond with a Lamical Perine touchdown on Florida’s second drive. The third drive ended with Franks rushing 10 yards and plowing his way into the end zone. He got up, with offensive linemen and teammates trying to celebrate with him but he pulled away from their bear size hands and ran towards the crowd. Yelling words that ESPN can’t broadcast before raising a finger to his facemask and telling the fans to shut up.
It was emotional. It was honest. It’s how the young quarterback felt in the moment. He’s bore the brunt of criticism for more than two seasons. He’s read tweets and comments. He’s not ignorant to how many in the fan base view him and in that moment he didn’t want to hear it.
It’s an unusual move to score a touchdown, tie a game and then lash out at the fans.
“What is he, 19 years old? 20? You know what bothers me a lot more: stay the hell off social media if you’re a starting quarterback,” Mullen said in a much more jocular tone than the words would appear here. “Unless it’s for your amusement.”
For better or worse that’s what being a quarterback has evolved to. Franks was not the main reason the Gators won Saturday, nor was he the main reason Florida lost its previous two games. The Gators’ defense gave up 105 points in the span of 11 quarters but here we are, talking about the quarterback.
It’s hard for someone Franks’ age to stay off of social media. College kids grew up with Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. It’s how they communicate. They don’t call, they text, tweet, snap and slide in DMs. How can Franks be expected to stay off of a medium where all of his friends are?
“You know what, that’s the world we live in,” Mullen said. “I always think of this. Everybody thinks these guys are big sports people. Right? They are 19-year-old kids, 19-, 20-, 21-year-ole college kids, right? Guess what, they’re going out tonight and, ‘Hey, wonder if that girl will dance with me?’ You know what I mean. They’re college kids. They live the emotions and they gotta learn to just deal with all of this.”
Franks doubled down when he scored his second rushing touchdown. This one was on a 4th and 1 from the one-yard line. He plowed into multiple defenders falling into the end zone. He got up, flexed both biceps and once again told the crowd to shut it.
Lol hang this in the Louvre pic.twitter.com/tOMEeG6f1D
— RichardJohnson (@RJ_Writes) November 10, 2018
“To be honest with you, I’m a super emotional player and that’s what it makes it a two way street. A lot of people are gonna like me and a lot of people are not gonna like me. And maybe that’s something I shouldn’t have did,” Franks said after the game. “But at the same time I’m emotional player, I wanna win as much as anybody in the world. I’m a competitive guy, emotional guy and that’s the way I play my game and you know, so I do apologize for that.”
Most of the hate, criticism, vitriol, whatever you want to call it that goes Franks’ way isn’t about him personally. It’s about him as a football player. It’s about something he did not who he is. It’s also hard for the person that is having all of that thrown their way to separate that and realize they don’t hate me, they just want to see the team win because it’s personal.
Today was a great win for Florida, for the fans, Mullen and Franks. The redshirt sophomore completed 15-of-21 (71%) for one score and rushed in two more. He helped bring the team back from a 31-14 deficit in the third quarter. Franks is an emotional kid but that’s how he needs to play. His emotion, much of which was anger, showed on the field with his best and most physical rushing performance of the season.
“I’m out there and in my mind I’m thinking just like ‘I gotta do anything, anything to get that extra yard, that extra inch for our team’ like I said they deserve it,” Franks said. “But when you say that, that means a lot to me when somebody goes and they just talk about the Florida Gators, that means a lot to me that was—I take that to heart cause I know how much these guys put into it, I know how hard they go out there and practice each and every single day to work and come out here and be able to win.”
Franks can’t help but take the tweets, comments and booing anything but personally because he loves his team, the university and playing football and being a quarterback is his identity. When he has a bad game he knows it. When he lets a pass go and it misses his mark, he sees it. Mullen says if you can’t handle criticism you can’t play at the University of Florida. Franks has dealt with more than his fair share of criticism and it boiled over Saturday afternoon. Rather than looking at it as an attack against the fans, maybe just look at it for what it is. Passion.
“It’s his team, you know? A lot of people have doubted him since he’s been here, talking crazy about him. But that’s on him, he’s shushing the crowd telling them we’re not going anywhere and I’m going to continue to lead this team. He led us to a victory today, like coach said they’re going to hate you one minute and they’re going to love you when you throw a touchdown pass,” Chauncey Gardner-Johnson said. “You ain’t shush them, they’re going to hate you. So at the end of the day he went out and competed, he did what he’s supposed to do and he led us to a victory.”