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Florida Quiets Franklin

James Franklin emerged from the locker room into the visiting team’s interview area with dazed eyes and a flat look on his face. Reporters peeled away from other players to listen to the quarterback talk about the conclusion of Missouri’s 14-7 loss to Florida. Franklin’s stat line read 21 completions out of 54 pass attempts for 236 yards, 4 interceptions and sacked 4 times.

Franklin is typically known for his poise. He doesn’t celebrate when he throws for a touchdown, he doesn’t show frustration after throwing an interception. His emotions remain constant. Regardless of how well or poorly he played in a game, Franklin is always ready and willing to speak to reporters with the same kind of poise. He’s typically talkative, almost to the point where he’ll go on tangeants about whatever the subject of discussion is. He speaks with more transparency than most of his teammates and is sure to make an almost overwhelming amount of eye contact with each and every single reporter.

But completing 44 percent of his pass attempts and throwing more interceptions than he had all season turns a talkative player taciturn, an outgoing man becomes shy, a poised quarterback gives his most depressing interview.

As reporters swarmed him outside of the locker room, Franklin looked off to a distance. Franklin made zero eye contact with anyone in the scrum as Gabe DeArmond asked the first question. Each of his responses seemed no longer than eight or nine words. His wide eyes drooped, his voice soft. He curtly answered questions regarding the fourth quarter opportunity he had to tie the game.

With Florida up 14-7, a minute and 49 seconds left to play, Franklin would go on to complete 7 of 9 pass attempts: a sideline pass to TJ Moe, pass up the middle to L’Damian Washington, a couple deep passes to Gahn McGaffie,and a pair of sideline passes to Dorial Green-Beckham. Franklin looked efficient and chains were moving quickly. Eleven seconds left on the clock, fourth down with six yards to go on the Florida 21 yard line, Franklin throws a post pass. Instead of being caught in the hands of  McGaffie, the ball finds its way into the possession of the Florida defense for the fourth time. Franklin’s head hung low from his neck as a couple of offensive linemen tried to console him. Although Franklin’s posture was perfect and his head held high during interviews, his tone was somber and his mood was at its lowest I’d seen all season.

Franklin almost winced as he spoke about the loss, telling reporters the defense was only holding itself responsible for giving up 14 points because they wanted to have his back. “I shouldn’t be turning the ball over four times.”

The short answers continued and the depression in his voice remained constant. Coach Gary Pinkel noted after the game that Franklin has been through a lot so far this season. He started the season fresh off of recovery from a shoulder injury, he injured the shoulder again, then injured his knee midway through the season. As a result of these injuries, Franklin was forced to sideline a couple of games (Arizona State, the second half against Vanderbilt, Alabama and the first half against Kentucky). Pinkel attributed the four interceptions against Florida to Franklin’s inability to practice consistently the last few weeks. The coach went on to say he was proud of Franklin for how he battled through this game.

Franklin didn’t spend too much time doing interviews before he slowly walked toward the team bus. Franklin once told me the reason why he wanted to be a quarterback was because he wants to always have more responsibility, more resting on his shoulders than anyone else on the team. He said he would never want any other player on offense to feel responsible for faults in a game, he would rather take all the blame. Regardless of the two touchdowns the defense gave up, I’m sure his dismal attitude tonight was because he’s allowing this loss to completely rest on his shoulders, holding himself completely responsible for losing a game that was within reach, perhaps one less interception away from a win.

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Missouri-Vanderbilt: An Old Man Matchup

On the nine hour drive to Hoover, Alabama for SEC Media Days this past July, I turned to my friend Maddy Glab and asked if there were any players in the SEC older than Elvis Fisher. After the NCAA granted him a 6th year for sitting out all of last season because of a knee injury, The Missouri offensive lineman coined his own twitter hastag: #6yearproblems. The hashtag grew wildly popular during the spring and by fall camp his teammates were referring to him as “grandpa.”

Anyway, back to being en route to Hoover. While Maddy drove, I went through rosters on each SEC’s team website. I looked at each player listed as a senior or a redshirt senior. I checked the year they graduated high school or the year each player was born, which ever was written in the bio. I had gone through the entire SEC West and most of the East. I checked Maddy’s organized list of players from the East scheduled to attend Media Days. Finally, after looking at Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers’ player bio and Wikipedia page, it became clear that Fisher was not the oldest player in the SEC. Rodgers would turn 24 years old the month after SEC Media Days. Fisher doesn’t turn 24 until October 25th. Both Rodgers and Fisher were scheduled to speak on the first day of SEC Media Days, so on the drive there, I began tweeting about my newfound information.

That next morning, Rodgers sat in front of TV Cameras in one of the many media rooms  and admitted he didn’t know too much about Missouri, but that he’d recently learned that he and Fisher were the oldest players in the SEC. Later that afternoon during Missouri’s alloted time, Fisher said he’d spoken to the quarterback on twitter, Jordan asked him if he was bringing his walker or his cane to Media Days. After three failed attempts in between sessions, the two never got to meet at Media Days.

Although both are a couple of the oldest players in the conference, one has aged a little bit more than the other. Jordan Rodgers has a head full of thick hair while Fisher jokes about his balding issue. Rodgers looks like he’s 24, Fisher is the first to point out that he looks like he’s 42. Fisher makes more of an event about this year being his 6th year. As a joke, he made a demand video back in August in the parking lot of Memorial Stadium, rattling off a list of expectations that needed to be met before fall camp.

Fisher and Rodgers play each other tonight at Memorial Stadium in Columbia. They will finally get to meet each other in person for the first time.

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Blog, Zavala at the Zou

Sheldon Richardson Speaks

I wrote a few weeks ago about how much of a breather Sheldon is compared to his teammates in the interview department. He’s a player who, for lack of a better phrase, keeps it real. He’s incredibly blunt and opinionated. I was actually really surprised that he and a handful of his teammates were willing to back track with me to talk about the Georgia game and the “Old man football” comment. Missouri corner, EJ Gaines, even told me that he’d completely forgotten about it until I brought it up.

Sheldon and his teammates said that his personality is consistent from the locker room, the field, at home, hanging out with friends and at media day Mondays. Players used words like “wild” “crazy” “obnoxious” “excited”  “outspoken” to describe Sheldon’s personality. The players that I talked to all agreed that despite his outlandish personality and some of his outspoken comments in the past, Sheldon has been an excellent leader for the entire team.

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An Interesting Direct Message

After the story on Missouri freshman wide receiver, Dorial Green-Beckham’s, suspension took hold of the Missouri and SEC twitter-verses this afternoon, I received  this direct message (above) on twitter from someone in the Mizzou football program. I sent out eight different tweets earlier regarding the information I knew about DGB’s arrest Wednesday night- the marijuana possession, who he was with, and where the arrest took place. I cropped out the person’s name in the above photo because I don’t mean to embarrass anyone. I didn’t really think I’d ever have to do something like this but I just want to clear up whatever confusion there might be as to where my “loyalties” stand.

I replied to the DM saying -point blank- it’s my job. It’s my job to give people information about the Missouri football team. That’s why I was at every single open practice during fall training camp, that’s why I go to every media day, games, etc. As a reporter, it’s my job to report on the team’s accomplishments and milestones as well as its faults and failures. I did indeed graduate from the University of Missouri just this past May, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of the Mizzou football team. I wouldn’t be qualified to do this job if I was. At the same time, as a reporter, I’m also not out to get anyone nor do I ever have the intention of putting a player or a coach in a bad light. I simply relay information to viewers and readers and give them a better understanding of what’s happening in the Missouri football program in the best way that I can. I told this person that he nor anyone in the program should take reports personally, that he has a job to do and so do I.

If anyone is still confused, he or she can email me at Zavalaa856@gmail.com

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Missouri Participates in Coach to Cure MD

Brad Todd’s nephew, Joel, was three years old when he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that weakens muscle strength.  By the time Joel is a teenager, he won’t be able to walk. By the time Joel is in his early twenties, he will be fighting for his life.

“Once a family member comes down with something like that, you go through a range of motions. The first year, we wrote the biggest check we could for a research organization,” said Todd.

Todd – a Missouri School of Journalism graduate- first got the idea to start Coach to Cure Muscular Dystrophy when he was watching college basketball. Coaches wore  sneakers with their nice suits for Coaches vs. Cancer, a day in college basketball devoted to raising cancer awareness. Todd realized that football didn’t have a day like that, so he took his idea to the American Football Coaches Association in 2008.

“Coach to Cure MD seemed like a perfect fit with football. Duchenne is a disorder that only affects boys and muscle strength, you need muscle strength to play football. By the time the boys with duchenne are teenagers, they’ll lose the strength in their legs and won’t be able to walk. By the time other boys are teenagers, they’re playing football and by the time those high school football players go on to play in college, the boys with duchenne are fighting for their lives.”

This year, 564 football coaches will participate in Coach to Cure MD, including Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel. Coaches will wear large patches on their sleeves promoting the foundation. Pinkel has participated in the event every year since it started. Todd says he’s grateful for Pinkel’s support.

“It means a lot to click on the TV and know that you’re not in this alone.”

The University of Missouri’s involvement with MD doesn’t stop on the football field.  Just recently, the university was  given a research grant of $294,000 for Dongsheng Duan, Ph.D. to continue his work with finding a way to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Todd’s nephew Joel is now ten years old. Todd says his mobility is still good and that his family is lucky that duchenne is progressing a little bit slower inside his body. “Chances are, the cure for this awful disorder will come from a college campus -and it might come from Dr. Duan at Mizzou.”

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Former Missouri Football Player Commends Franklin for Saying No

2008 Cotton Bowl Photo: AP/Matt Slocum

Tony Temple knows what it’s like to want to play through an injury. After being diagnosed with a high ankle sprain after the 2007 Nebraska game, he felt that as a senior starter and an offensive weapon at running back for the Missouri football team, it was important that he play. Temple admitted that after sitting out a couple of games after his ankle sprain, he took a few shots of painkillers through out the season so he could play the rest of his senior year. Temple played almost half of the season with an injury, including the Big 12 Championship against Oklahoma, and the 2008 Cotton Bowl against Arkansas, where he set a Cotton Bowl record with 24 carries for 281 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Despite being one of the top performers in one of the most memorable seasons in Coach Gary Pinkel’s era at Missouri, Temple admits he’s dealing with the consequences of taking painkillers five years after college.

“I definitely get up slower, I move a little slower. In the winter and in the cold I can still feel the pain from the injury.”

Temple said he watched Missouri play Arizona State this past weekend. When he heard Missouri quarterback James Franklin had turned down a Cortisone shot for his shoulder, Temple thought Franklin made a smart decision.

“I don’t blame James at all for not taking the shot. I commend him for making that decision, for not putting his body in danger with painkillers and for wanting to feel the pain to take care of his injury instead of ignoring it.”

A native of Columbia, Mo. and former basketball player for Missouri S&T, Byron Bundy, agreed with Temple and said Franklin was wise in making his decision. Bundy, who suffered from a foot injury in college, said he took four shots of Cortisone just to get through his junior year.

“It didn’t help me play any better. After I stopped taking the shots, I found out I ended up tearing other ligaments in my foot. I had to have two surgeries on the same foot after all of that. Now, two years later, my foot  STILL hurts.”

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No Shots of Any Kind for Franklin

James Franklin sitting out of the ASU game on Saturday

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.

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