Richardson Lake Highlands HS
NR: 3 SR: 5 Rating: *****
An Inside Texas conversation with Lake Highlands head coach Jerry Gayden on Franklin Okam:
IT: What are Franklin's strengths as a football player?
Gayden: Strengths are his agility, his flexibility, great athletic skills, and tremendous quickness for a young man his size.
IT: What did the Texas coaches tell you that they like about Franklin?
Everything. They were excited about the things I just talked about. They were excited about his academics, they were excited about his character and integrity, the great person and individual that he is. Being a football player, a basketball player, a state qualifier last year in track, a power lifter, just a tremendous athlete, great upside when he gets to college. I think they saw something in him in his intensity that he plays with, with his desire, his competitiveness. Franklin Okam doesn't come along but once in a lifetime. He's a special kid, just an all-around package talking about physical size, athleticism, character, academics, on and on and on, it's just unbelievable.
IT: What did Franklin mean to your football program?
Gayden: The kid's looked up to him. The younger kids in our program look up to him and want to emulate him. Even though he is still here, we talk about him to our younger kids about what a role model he is because he never even gets demerits or detention, he's never even late to class. He does everything right. He's in peer mediators, he's in peer mediation so he works with kids with conflicts within our school. He goes to the elementary (schools), he tutors for the math organization through Alpha Theta, you just go on and on plus all the things you and I already talked about.
IT: Is there a defining moment for you that exemplifies Franklin's ability as a football player?
Gayden: I think of his entire career because he played the same all of the time. He made great plays all of the time. Sometimes they weren't great plays because of a tackle or something like that, I think if you understand Franklin Okam and his abilities -- did you see the All-American game down in San Antonio? Did you see the first snap of the ballgame? First snap of the ballgame, East has got the ball, you obviously know what kind of talent there is on the field with 78 people from all over the United States, All-Americans. Frank's at the left defensive end, they run a sweep to their left which is away from Frank, Frank runs it down 38 yards later downfield to make the tackle. That's Franklin Okam. Intensity, concentration, athleticism, quickness.
IT: Obviously, he played some DE in the Army game. Could he play defensive end and defensive tackle...
Gayden: And offensive tackle and tight end.
IT: So you see him capable of playing multiple positions at the next level?
Gayden: Without a doubt. It's hard to project to the next level. I think that's the most difficult thing that they have to decide at Texas because I know they probably want him to play inside and take Marcus Tubbs' position. That's probably where they need him and that may be where they place him but they could certainly play him at a lot of different places.
IT: Did he play on both sides of the ball for you?
Gayden: More defense than offense.
IT: Does he have the frame carry a lot more weight, or is he close to his optimal playing weight right now?
Gayden: Obviously, at 6-5 he can put on more weight. How much more weight do you need him to put on, I don't know. The strength coach down there is going to get him much stronger than he is. He lifts and does a great job now but obviously going from football to basketball to track and then he plays basketball in fall league, spring, summer, those type of things, there's a big upscale for his strength to come. He can carry some more weight, but I asked coaches before he signed how much they thought he weighed because they were watching him play basketball, and anywhere from 270-290 is what they all estimated and he's at 308, but he doesn't look like he's 308.
IT: Anything that we didn't cover that you'd like to add?
Gayden: We've had a great number of people around here -- from Andre Tillman, to Marcus Coleman, Detron Smith, Matt Stover and Phil Dawson who's still kicking in the league, we've got a tremendous number of young men who have come through here and you just really can't say enough about Franklin Okam and what a great talent he is, what a great person he is, and we just hope that he is able to develop and continue to grow and do the things that we believe he can. He's just a special person to our school, and just mentioning those names makes you understand we've got five guys in the pros right now; we've had some good people, it's not like this is a first thing in the forty years of our school that has happened to us but he is really a special individual.
Note from Clendon: As Will and I waited to talk to coach Gayden, we peeked in on Lake Highlands' hoops practice. We saw first hand a point that Gayden made above: Okam carries his weight extremely well. On the basketball court, he doesn't appear to be a football lineman killing time playing hoops, but rather an athletic power forward who belongs on the hardwood.
NEXT UP: Brian Orakpo