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Florida Football

Parental Perspective: Ginger Franks saw Feleipe's patience pay off

January 8, 2019
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Feleipe Franks jumped up from where he’d dove into the end-zone and ran to the edge of the gridiron. He’d just scored a touchdown that gave his Florida Gators a lead they wouldn’t relinquish over Michigan in the 2018 Peach Bowl. As his teammates surrounded him in celebration, he sent a heart sign into the crowd. There were just over 74K fans in attendance, but it was a pointed gesture. He knew exactly where his mom was sitting.

Up in the stands, Ginger Franks continued to watch and cheer as her baby boy led the No. 10 Gators to a dominating 41-15 win over the No. 7 Wolverines. It was a 180 degree turn around from the game she’d watched him play the season before when he’d started his career against those same Wolverines in Dallas in a game that began a tumultuous season for Franks and the Gators. We all lived it, so we won’t recap the entire history here, but it was a season that saw Franks benched as many times as he was started, struggle to catch up the college game and squarely blamed for every misstep.

Ginger was patient though. With the intuition that only a mother has, she didn’t fret or panic. She just waited.

“He was 18-19 years old last year. He was 20 this year, that’s a big growth period,” Ginger explains to Inside the Gators.

“He’s learning how to, he’s matured, he’s learning how not only to be a young man and how to do things, he’s learning how his body works. Cause I went through this with my older son (Jordan Franks, former UCF tight end now with the Cincinnati Bengals); it’s like this age is kind of like, it all comes together for you. It’s like ‘oh I have these muscles now and this is how I use them.’ And it’s funny to watch them because he’s doing the exact same thing as his brother, like ‘oh this is what I do and oh I am strong.’ And just kind of developing as you go and it’s really fun to watch.

“I knew it would happen; it was just being patient and waiting on it. And I know that’s not the easiest thing for people to do because they kind of see you as the football player and they think that’s all you do but they forget he’s still a college student and he still has to do that and he’s still trying to figure out himself and his life and ‘what do I want to do besides football.’ And still have to balance all that out and have a girlfriend so it’s a lot. But I knew he’d figure it out.”

That didn’t mean there weren’t growing pains. Ginger admits it was painful to watch at times last season, especially as the offensive line gave up 30+ sacks. And it was tough, watching as her son sank to what he would later admit was the lowest possible point he could confidence wise. It wasn’t easy as he went through a season that saw him throw eight interceptions to nine touchdowns and the closest he came to a bowl was sitting with Ginger at (ironically) the Peach Bowl watching his brother and UCF beat Auburn.

But still she was patient.

“It’s a process. Every day, every week, he’s learned more. I know his brother stayed with him some over the summer when he was getting ready to go to the NFL and they would sit down, and work out together and throw and be with all his receivers. I see him learning something every day, every week and it’s a little bit more and it just builds. And I think this season it just kind of all came together but it wasn’t like any one moment for me because I’ve seen him learn so much, a little every day.”

It was Feleipe’s dedication to that process and the attitude she’d seen in him his whole life that gave Ginger confidence the turnaround would come. Because no matter what the outside narrative became or what speculations were assumed, she knew the kind of young man she was sending off to Gainesville.

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Head coach Dan Mullen has commented a couple of times that season that Feleipe is an emotional person. The key was showing him how to use those to his advantage instead of seeing it as a hindrance. So when Franks rushed into the end-zone twice against South Carolina and then shushed his own home crowd after a week of being bombarded with negative comments from Florida fans, it became a fire that lit the emotional Franks and seemed to the final puzzle piece clicking into place. Finally, he had strung all of his strengths together.

“He will give you the shirt off his back, which he’s done,” recalls Ginger.

“He’s walked down the road and saw somebody and they didn’t have a shirt so he took his shirt off and was like here, take mine. He would come back from all of the camps when he was in high school with all these shoes and stuff and he’d start handing them out to the guys on the football team cause they didn’t have shoes or cleats. He’s just, he’s like ‘I have stuff, I don’t need it.’ He’s just that type of person. He’s very giving…so people see him, just see the one side of him but he’s got a lot of other sides.

“And he is a very emotional person. He doesn’t try to hide his emotions. He’s a very passionate person. His teammates, they mean the world to him and he’s gonna work harder than anybody to help them win the game or whatever it takes, he’s gonna put in the hours, he’s gonna put in the effort, that’s just him.”

That effort paid off; Franks ended the season having started every game (the first Gator quarterback to do so since John Brantley in 2010), 31 touchdowns to only six interceptions and capped it all with a four game stretch that saw him average 215.5 passing and 44.3 rushing yards per game (South Carolina, Idaho, Florida State, Michigan).

And Ginger’s lesson in patience was rewarded. She not only began to see her son mature on the field but grow into the role that so many before him have tried and failed to fill.

“So we went out for Thanksgiving dinner and then we were gonna go to the mall cause like any other college kid I need to get his clothes, I needed to get him some jeans and stuff like that. And yea we’ll never do that again,” she laughs, trying to describe the mad house of Black Friday shoppers who also saw their starting quarterback walking through the Gainesville mall.

“I mean respect all the fans, I love it, that they come up to him… it was constant. I think what was so funny is some girls mom drove around and stopped him in the parking lot so they could take a picture with him and it was holding up traffic and we were like ‘let’s just go.’

“To me it’s just funny because I see him still as my son who, ‘can you please just do your laundry before I get over here?’… You know ‘where’s your other shoe Feleipe’ cause he’s known for just showing up to football with two different shoes on. But he’s always been that way since he was a little kid.”

While he’s grown in so many ways, there are still things he carries with him—more than a laissez faire attitude towards matching shoes—like that same mindset that brought back cleats to teammates that will also see him stop for any picture even in a mall parking lot, or the determination to be there for the teammates around him, or the emotion that he’s always worn on his sleeve that helps Ginger know when a game has changed.

“When he puts the helmet on and I see his eye’s, I still see that little kid… when he gets in the zone, he gets this look on his face and I knew when he did that touchdown [in the 2nd quarter against Michigan] like ok this is gonna be good. I just knew the rest of the game was gonna be good.”

She was right. After she saw his eyes and he flashed her the heart sign, the Gators outscored the Wolverines 28-5 and Franks was named the offensive MVP. He had to compose himself before heading on stage, overcome with the emotion Ginger mentioned he’s no longer holding back and sending a smile to his mom in the stands who was watching all of her patience pay off.

“It was just relief of a lot of different things that had accumulated over several years and just a release, excited for the team and just everything going the way it should go.

“I’m excited about next year…he’s got good coaches and they’re helping him with his confidence and what he needs to do. It’s all worked out really well.”

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