Our favorite senior running back appeared on Jim Rome's syndicated radio show today. As you would guess, JetSki sounded great, and shows that he is so much more than just a football player. Franklin discusses the rivalry game, his future after football, the importance of healing his community, and the one very North Campus class he's taking this fall. I love the way he and Rome end the interview. It's another reason why we should be so proud that this young man is a Bruin.
Here is the transcript for those of you who missed it.
Jim Rome: UCLA's senior running back. He's rushed for 1,270 yards this season. Earlier this year he became UCLA's all time leading rusher, and you've got UCLA going up against usc this weekend. The winner plays Oregon in the Pac-10 title game on November 30th. UCLA is 8-2, they are ranked number 17. I'm joined by Johnathan Franklin. Johnathan, pleasure to have you on, how are you?
Johnathan Franklin: I'm doing well. How are you doing?
JR: Good, really good. Johnathan, I think there are a lot of people around the country that understand that this is a rivalry but don't give it the respect, or understand how fierce it really is. You grew up in Los Angeles. You know all about it. Talk about what it's like being inside that rivalry and how do you think it would compare to some of the other really big rivalries nationwide?
JF: I mean, this means everything. It's pretty much for the city. Whoever wins this gets the bragging rights for the city, is running the town, it pretty much it shows you who's on top. It's LA's team, the winner of this game, so it's such a big game for this city, and representing Los Angeles so we're all excited to play in it.
JR: Ok, the stakes are huge. It's a rivalry game. It's about representing Los Angeles. You've got Pac-12 title implications on this game. So are you going to try to tell me it's just another game and that's how you're going to approach it, or is it something bigger than that?
JF: You know, you have to approach each game the same way. You can't get caught up into the hype or you can't play with too many emotions. You gotta be the same guy every day.
JR: Johnathan Franklin is my guest. You know it's a great rivalry, but I guess I gotta pose the question, if they've beaten you 12 of the last 13 times, is it still a rivalry?
JF: Hahaha. Definitely. Without a doubt. People are still treating it the same way as if we've been going back and forth the past few years. No, the campus is excited, the community is excited, and I'm sure it's going to be a big game and everyone is going to be there.
JR: Alright, now you're a senior. You have not tasted victory against usc yet. If you guys go out there and you leave it all out there and you play as well as you can possibly play and your best doesn't beat their best and you graduate without ever having beaten them before, is that going to be ok?
JF: I mean I will definitely be disappointed. Those are our rivals right there but all I can control is myself and and doing what I can to help my team win and contributing the best way I can
JR: We're talking to Johnathan Franklin. I mentioned, Johnathan, that you broke the school rushing record of 3,731 yards when you had that big game in the blowout against Arizona. I mean, that's a legendary program with great great athletes and they've had a number of great running backs come through there. How does it feel to you, or how does it make you feel to get that milestone?
JF: God is so good and it's such a blessing to be in this position. And I am just so thankful for the linemen I've had these past four years and the receivers just busting their tails in practice and on the field and the running backs, you know, pushing me in practice and allowing me to be able to maximize my potential. Praise to my offensive linemen and my receivers I've had these last four years.
JR: You know, it's interesting because you just laid it out and you really didn't take any credit for it whatsoever but you made sure to give credit to everybody around you which brings me to the moment itself. You broke the record with a 37 yard touchdown run on your third carry of the game. Right afterwards, Jim Mora made a point of calling timeout so your teammates could be with you to congratulate you. My point is, I think maybe you don't want to make it about you, but how did it feel when your teammates came over there and celebrated with you?
JF: It was so humbling and I just appreciate them so much. It's not often I feel that you see a player that gets that kind of love from their teammates. But I feel if anybody would have broken that record my teammates would have been treating them the same because we're such a family here. I mean even when I scored, before teammates "You broke the record! You broke the record!" So it's such a blessing to be part of this family and receive that love from them.
JR: Johnathan Franklin, plays at UCLA. So you come out and you start the season and you have back to back 200 yard games and you're currently on a two game streak right now where you have two160 yard games and all of the sudden now, people outside the program are talking about you and you're getting run for things like the Walter Camp Award, the Doak Walker Award, even the Heisman Trophy. Do you allow yourself to think about awards like that, or do you get caught up in that at all?
JF: You can't. And it's a blessing to be in them, and I'm not saying they don't mean nothing, but that's how you have to approach it. You just have to stay focused on the team because that's what it's all about. Stay focused on the game you just have to play your game. Regardless of if I'm up for an award or not, I have to be the same guy each and every day and continue to work and stay humble.
JR: What about things that are not related to football? I know you care deeply about your team and you want to be as successful as you can, but I've also heard you say, "I have more important things in my life". For instance, what would be more important than football and what are some of the other things you think about?
JF: You know, God first, serving the Kingdom. Secondly, I would like to become the Mayor of Los Angeles. That's like my big goal, so hopefully things fall in the right place with that.
JR: Really interesting. I mean, you don't talk to too many young people that aspire to something like that, especially those who have success in sports and might be thinking about that exclusively. Where did that goal come from?
JF: Just growing up in the community, and I just always felt that I wanted to change things. I did an internship with the Mayor not too long ago. It was so many voices I felt like that was unheard or that people didn't acknowledge. I just want to give everyone the opportunity to succeed or to change things, because I feel that things can be changed in the community. Things do need to be changed, and I feel like I can do that.
JR: UCLA running back, Johnathan Franklin, my guest. Let me get your thoughts on the internship with the Mayor. I mean, it could be one of those things where like, you kinda show up, you get a line on the resume,maybe go pick up some coffee for some people. Was it like that or was it very different?
JF: It was very different. I was shadowing the Mayor. I went to a couple of press conferences with him. I sat down and talked to him. Met people throughout City Hall that understood how things are run and the people behind the scenes. I met people throughout the LA Police Department, the Sergeant, seeing how they were ran and how they help the Mayor and I met everybody in the Fire Department. It was so cool to just see who runs the city and who runs Los Angeles. It was a blessing.
JR: You know, when I asked you where you came up with that and you said that, "it's part of the way I was brought up and the community I'm from", for those who don't know, where did you grow up and what ws that like?
JF: I grew up in South Central Los Angeles, not really a good neighborhood. Poverty, inner city. And a lot of people really did come out there and become successful, unfortunately there were a lot of gang bangers or guys with drugs and unfortunately some died at a young age. So I feel that since I'm here at UCLA I can't just be an athlete. I have to be a role model. I have to shine. I have to do something to change my city, you know, change my community, and I'm doing everything I can to do that.
JR: Johnathan, is the goal to get out of that environment no matter what, or is the goal to get out, achieve something, then come back and try to make it better?
JF: It is to get out definitely, but come back and give those people inspiration. Give them something to motivate them, you know, and change that community, because things can be changed and they will be changed in due time.
JR: all right, so when you go back right now, how are you treated?
JF: I go back as much as I can to talk to people in my community or go back to my high school when I have an opportunity to speak to the kids. I mean, that's all I can do right now until I'm financially stable down the road. But I know God, He's going to talk to me. He's going to use me in great ways and make those changes that I want to happen.
JR: Johnathan Franklin is my guest. Can you give me one more idea? When you come out a situation like that, were there lots of other guys in the community that could have done what you've accomplished given the opportunity, or was it matter of you making better choices and steering clear? For instance, why did you make it out where others haven't?
JF: I feel I made it out because I had a praying mother. God has had a plan for me, I believe, and it's such a blessing, and I just stay focused. I feel like I played with guys that were way better than me, way talented, who had way more athleticism, but I just stay focused. I had to get out of the community. It was no way I was staying in there. And I'm blessed that God brought me this far.
JR: What happened to those guys? Why did they not make use of their talent? Why did they not make better choices?
JF: Theyr're easily influenced, I would say. A lot of people don't grow up with parenting. When you don't have your parents, you don't have people enforcing laws, you look to another resource, and that's maybe bad things in the community. That's talking to gang bangers, things like that or trying drugs. That's unfortunate, but sometimes people are just born into a bad situation.
JR: You know it's interesting, you have already graduated, but you are still taking classes, right?
JF: Yes, I'm taking one class right now.
JR: So what class are you taking?
JF: It's a Scandinavian class about folk tales.
JR: What's it like? What do you guys study?
JF: Haha. We talk about...ok, don't judge...but we talk about The Little Mermaid, and The Ugly Duckling, and the book called The Little Red Shoes. It's by the author called H. C. Andersen, and pretty much his stories a lot of times don't end on a positive note. Mostly they end negatively. And we just talk about how his life relates to his stories and what he can be going through and how these stories relate to the world, how things care negative and how he uses characters to represent certain people in the world. So it's a pretty cool class.
JR: Are you kidding? Judge? I'm not gonna judge. I think learning about the journey of the little mermaid is awesome. I wish it were me. I think that's tremendous.
JF: Last thought, so is the NFL in the back of your mind?
JF: Yeah, without a doubt. Hopefully God blesses me with that. But all I can do is continue to work and take one day at a time.
JR: Hey Johnathan, one last thing, I've been thinking about this, I talked about it earlier. I understand the fans are gonna get cought up. It's a very very important game to them. What do you make of the vandalism that took place the [usc] fans coming on to your campus and dropping some paint on the sign and a Bruin statue? Where do you come out on that?
JF: That's for the students to take care of or retaliate if they want to. But all I can do is be a leader, be a senior for my team. You know, come out Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and work hard. All I can control is what's in my hand and what goes on in our locker room. That's the only thing that is important right now.
JR: He's UCLA's all time leading rusher, senior running back, and it is UCLA-usc week. Johnathan, nice to have you on the show, thanks you so much, good luck to you.
JF: Thank you, God bless, and Go Bruins.
JR: You got it. Go Bruins. That's the Mayor, Johnathan Franklin. Did I, or did I not, tell you before that interview started that you're gonna like this one? That's very interesting.