Franklin settles on QB, looks to land job with Lions

Posted May 19, 2014

It isn’t uncommon for kids to play a lot of different positions when they first start playing football to see where the best fit might be. QB James Franklin took it to the extreme.

It isn’t uncommon for kids to play a lot of different positions when they first start playing football to see where the best fit might be.

Detroit Lions quarterback James Franklin took it to an extreme, however.

James FranklinQB James Franklin (Photo: Detroit Lions)

He started playing football as a 185-pound fifth grader and played right tackle, center, guard and defensive end because the league he was playing in had a weight restriction for ball carriers.

His family moved to Texas two years later and the league he played in there no longer had a weight restriction on skill positions, so he played running back, center, linebacker and safety. He was also the team’s punter and kicker, though Franklin admits he didn’t have good form as a toe kicker.

When his quickness finally caught up with his weight, Franklin started playing receiver and tight end before eventually taking up quarterback.

He was one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college last year completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,429 yards and 19 touchdowns, while rushing for another 510 and four touchdowns to help lead Missouri to the SEC Championship Game.

As a sophomore in 2011, Franklin rushed for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he says the 2,865 passing yards and 21 passing touchdowns that year better represent the quarterback he is and wants to be.

“I don’t really like running,” Franklin said. “I know I did it some in college, but I like throwing the ball. I switched over to quarterback my junior year in high school. I played receiver, so it was just natural for me to run. So whenever things got a little cloudy, I’d just take off and run, but I like throwing the ball a lot better.”

He has to get better as a pocket passer, but is hoping to make the Lions 53-man roster as a developmental quarterback behind Matthew Stafford and Dan Orlovsky. He’ll be competing with two-year veteran Kellen Moore for the job.

“(James) Franklin is smart,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s a talented guy. He’s had a very good career. He was with a winner. He knows how to work extremely hard. Certainly, you can see it.”

Franklin played mostly in the shotgun at Missouri, and plays were called in from the sideline, so the biggest adjustments for him over the last week has been playing under center and getting the plays called in the huddle.

“We wouldn’t have to call the whole play (at Missouri) because we were a no-huddle offense. So they’d signal, ‘Deuce right, mask right, bend,’ and that was it,” Franklin said. “Here it’s like, ‘Weak right, 385, sticky X post, wash out Z.’ So it’s a little bit longer, so it’s taking me awhile to pick up on those things.”

It’s an adjustment Franklin needs to pick up in a hurry with OTAs beginning Tuesday.

“I was just taking too much time thinking about it instead of just going out there and playing,” he said.

Franklin said the Lions were the only team that offered him a free agent deal after the draft and plans to make the most of the opportunity by competing for the No. 3 job and helping prepare this team to win.