As a senior at Concord High School in Indiana, Franko House was widely recruited in both football and basketball. He ultimately chose basketball, playing four collegiate seasons at Ball State.
In 2016, House averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, yet the itch to play football never left him. Once NFL teams began showing interest, House chose to return to football, despite not having played the sport since 2012.
The Chicago Bears signed House as an undrafted free agent following the 2017 NFL Draft and he spent last weekend at Bears rookie minicamp.
Bear Report sat down with House to discuss his first football snaps in four-plus years.
"Looking back about six months ago, if somebody had told me I’d be at Halas Hall working with the Bears, I’d never have believed it. I’m a basketball player from Ball State.
"I wasn’t always a one sports guy. In high school I played defensive end and enjoyed that quite a lot. I also was on the varsity basketball squad.
"Once I got to Ball State, though, basketball was my preferred sport. The demands of college are much greater than those in high school so I realized there was no way I could do well both on the field and on the court while keeping up with my academic responsibilities. Something had to go and my choice was to keep the basketball.
"I had a good college career and thought maybe I’d end up on a team in Europe eventually but then everything changed. One of the Bears scouts happened to hear about me. He contacted my Ball State coach and asked if I’d be able to make the transition to tight end in the NFL. My basketball coach told the scout that I could do it. I was a solid size at 6-6, 248, had good ball skills, and was fast on the court.
"Still, it's a big leap from college basketball to being a rookie in the NFL. Looking back just a little while ago, I was never positive that I’d get this opportunity. I saw it as a definite possibility but hoping and doing are two completely different things.
"I had a tryout with the Bears but didn’t hear any more about it until after the draft. One day the phone rang asking if I’d come in as an undrafted free agent. My fiancee and I discussed the matter at length and it definitely made sense. If you have the opportunity to go into the NFL, you take it. We have a young son now and I want to provide for my family in the best way possible. Football seemed the path to take.
"I don’t want to sound too analytical. It was more than an economic decision. Growing up, playing professional football was always my dream. I knew in my heart if I ever got that call I’d accept immediately, I’d never forgive myself if I let that chance pass me by.
"The decision wasn’t completely crazy. There have been other college ball players who made the transition successfully. I knew that I’d have to do a lot of learning and get some bumps and bruises along the way. I was sure I’d mess up now and then, but that’s all part of the education process. I felt confident that I could do it, that I could succeed in professional football.
"I didn’t come to the Bears cold in terms of this game. I interned in Ball State’s football office this past spring. It was a great opportunity to observe what happens on and off the field first hand, and reacquaint myself with football.
"I studied the little things - coverage, routes, why you do out there - details like that. You don't want to be doing anything out there that messes up your teammates' play. Those were the little things I’d forgotten since high school playing days. I would have been clueless if I hadn’t spent time in that atmosphere learning all I could.
"I worked hard all spring until I felt comfortable going forward. I'm not there yet and still feel the the need to get up to speed. I don’t think that slight discomfort is limited to former basketball players. It seems to be the usual way for any rookie to view this transition process into the pros.
"What do I bring to the position? I'm athletic. I’m assertive. I’m physical. I can definitely catch the ball. I work hard and I love the game. What I need to work on are the little things like blocking technique and the nuances of the tight end position.
"My main thing right now is to pay attention and stay focused. There isn’t anything that happens here that isn’t important to my future. I want to learn as much as I can and soak it all in.
"I’ve always had a good work ethic. At Ball State I’d get up with the baby, feed him, then head off before sunrise to practice. I don’t see the NFL as any different. The hours I work may change somewhat but I’ll be right in there from the first rep to the last down of the day giving it my all.
"The conditioning aspect of working here now is comfortable. I’ve been an athlete all my life. I enjoy getting in and working hard. The nutrition part I also understand. Athletes know how to fine tune their diets for optimum success.
"In terms of learning everything I need to know intellectually, it's a steep curve right now but a challenge I happily accept. The playbook is huge but that is to be expected. I’ve always been a quick study and this shouldn’t be any different. My future is at stake here so I need to absorb as much as I can as soon as possible."