When it comes to the things for which he is thankful, first-year Penn State coach James Franklin starts where any good husband and father would.
Got a beautiful, healthy family, he said of his wife and two young daughters.
From there, however, he goes on to his station in life. Eleven games (and about 11 months) into his tenure with the Nittany Lions, the Pennsylvania native still cant quite believe things have worked out the way they have.
This even though PSU, which is still feeling the sting of NCAA sanctions that hit long before Franklin arrived, enters this weekends regular-season finale against No. 8 Michigan State at Beaver Stadium at 6-5 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten.
Im a guy that doesnt take things for granted, I think thats why I get so emotional about things and Im so passionate about things, Franklin said after Wednesdays practice. Because I never thought Id be in this position, to be honest with you.
A longtime college and NFL assistant, Franklin spent three years as the head coach at Vanderbilt before Penn State targeted him last January as a replacement for Bill OBrien.
Franklin jumped at the opportunity, and brought along most of his staff from Nashville.
Unlike OBrien, who said early in his PSU tenure that his ultimate goal was to coach in the NFL and then left after two seasons at University Park to take over the Houston Texans Franklin insists he views Penn State as a destination job.
Theres not too many times in the coaching profession where you can go somewhere and plant your roots, he said. We have the ability to do all those things here. So Im unbelievably thankful and blessed every single day to come out here and represent Penn State, and try to be the best father and husband I can be.
“There’s not too many times in the coaching profession where you can go somewhere and plant your roots. We have the ability to do all those things here. So I’m unbelievably thankful and blessed every single day to come out here and represent Penn State, and try to be the best father and husband I can be.”
Those roots include a house in Port Matilda, just outside of State College, where 15 Nittany Lion freshmen and several staffers will stop by for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday.
But first PSU will practice in the morning, then have lunch together as a team at training table in Pollock Hall. After that, Lions who live relatively close to University Park can go home to be with their families, so long as they can get back in time for Fridays walk-through.
Players from farther away will eat Thanksgiving dinner with their positions coaches.
And the rookies get to spend time with the head coach. So who will do the cooking?
Its a combination, Franklin said. My wife will cook. But then were also catering some of it just because its so many people. Weve learned our lesson. For every 300-pound man, its like feeding four normal human beings.
The young athletes will undoubtedly be thankful for the family atmosphere on what for many of them will be their first Thanksgiving away from home.
For Franklin, it will the first Thanksgiving at his new home. And he appreciates the spirit of the holiday.
Got an unbelievable job, he said. Got a great support system, family and friends. Got a great staff and a great team to work with, and we have a bright future here.
SEE FRANKLIN’S ENTIRE WEDNESDAY PRESS CONFERENCE