James Franklin settles into a chair underneath the dimly lit lights of the Missouri Football auditorium. He just survived a huge scrum of media around him in the lobby of the athletic complex, asking him a series of questions about pain killers and why he doesn’t take them. The questions are a result from this past Saturday, when Franklin refused a Cortisone shot before the Arizona State game and sat the entire time because his shoulder was in pain.
Before I warn him that I might ask the same questions he’s been answering all afternoon, he initiates the conversation. “I’m honestly really surprised at how big of a deal this is to people. I’m surprised that turning down pain killers is such a big deal.” I simply ask him why he doesn’t do them and why it’s so surprising and he begins the longest sound bite I might have ever recorded. “I don’t really like taking medicine of any kind, I don’t like putting that stuff into my body, it’s just a personal choice.” Franklin thinks for a second and continues. “It’s kind of like being a vegetarian. That’s someone’s personal decision to not eat meat..So for me, taking pain killers is just something I don’t do. Franklin goes on to explain that he’s never really been a fan of medicine of any kind. “I just don’t do that stuff.”
On Tuesday, the day after our interview, Franklin posted this note on Instagram and as his Facebook status, explaining his views toward pain killers and saying no to drugs.
This stance on pain killers and drugs comes from a young man who doesn’t like to contaminate his body with anything. Franklin has explained to me before that even though he’s of age, he’s never had a sip of alcohol. He’s serious when he says that he doesn’t drink and will never drink. While most young adults celebrate their 21st birthdays by filling their bodies with as much liquor as possible, Franklin spent his at the Osage Beach Mall with his girlfriend, Molly. While most stumble to the bars to celebrate turning the legal drinking age, Franklin and his girlfriend ended the night with dinner at Kobe steakhouse, sans Saki bombs. While a lot of freshly turned-twenty-one year olds can’t remember most of their birthday celebration, Franklin can recant the entire day and night he turned of age. Franklin admits he has never been to a party in his life. Even on nights after a Missouri victory, while the vast majority of his teammates look forward to partying, or celebrating a win in downtown Columbia, Franklin is most likely to visit Molly, stop at a drive through for food and head home.
So while most athletes would have taken the Cortisone shot, Franklin said no. While most athletes would risk the consequences of taking pain killers, the chance of worsening the injury from not feeling pain, Franklin decided to avoid the risk, even if that meant sitting out an entire game. Franklin is aware of the effects of alcohol just as much as he’s aware of the risks involved with taking pain killers. No matter what the circumstances, he avoids them both. Franklin understands that he isn’t the typical 21-year old football player, he doesn’t fit the norms that society prescribes to young men his age. He knows he’s different when it comes to what he puts into his body. As he’s said to me and all of the other reporters, it’s his choice, it’s his personal decision.