An open letter to Feleipe Franks
I get it. This probably wasn’t how you drew it up, all those years ago when you were the rocket-armed blue-chip from the Florida Panhandle.
You probably never figured, when you flipped from LSU to Florida, that you’d finish your career playing a shortened senior season in Fayetteville, Arkansas, for a guy in his first year as a Division I head coach. Heck, you probably never thought you’d be playing your redshirt senior season, not with your prototypical NFL size and arm. You didn’t have the look of a guy that would need 4+ years of seasoning.
Just last summer, you were the BMOC at a place where they have multiple statues honoring their best quarterbacks. You had just won 10 games, helped the Gators win their biggest bowl game in a decade and won Peach Bowl MVP in the process. For the first time in your collegiate career, there wasn’t a quarterback competition on campus. You were the guy. Florida was your team. It was going to be your year.
You had earned it, too.
No quarterback in the Power 5 improved more, from a passing efficiency standpoint, than you did from your first season as a starting quarterback to your first season with Dan Mullen. As a freshman starter in the SEC, you took your lumps, producing more turnovers than touchdowns. But as a sophomore, it’s easy to forget you accounted for 31 touchdowns and only turned the ball over 7 times.
That’s the thing about you.
You know you can play, even if so many others doubt or still have questions.
You had earned the right to lead that team at Florida, and it’s a shame it all got taken from you on a freakish tackle when you were just trying to make a play behind a young offensive line.
After you were hurt, you showed your true character. People said the Gators might be better off without you — but you were there the whole time, the consummate teammate, the guy the locker room adored, the loyal friend, the guy who was at every film study, pushing Kyle Trask and Emory Jones forward.
And when you decided to move on last winter, rather than stay and fight for your job again, you left with grace. And everyone in Gainesville — from the locker room to the fan base or the last man to turn off the lights in the football complex — wants what’s best for you.
Don’t believe me?
Wait until you hear the cheers when you take the field in Gainesville this November. That’s respect and admiration — and you’ve earned it.
Let’s be real though, 13.
This Arkansas thing. It’s not going to be easy.
Coach Pittman knows you can play. He wouldn’t have pushed so hard for you to come if he didn’t know it.
That has to feel good, having yet another coach that sees it and believes it, no matter the outside noise.
But this is a young team, the kind of reclamation project you’ve been around in the past. You know that can go one of two ways, because you’ve lived both scenarios. Either things go south quickly, or you come together and build and grow.
You’ll get every chance in the universe to silence the doubters. After all, in case you haven’t heard, you just transferred to a program that’s about to play the most brutal schedule in the history of college football. One day, no matter what happens, when this is all over and people can gather at bars and play trivia again, you’ll be the answer to a trivia question.
“Who was the senior quarterback who guided Arkansas through the most difficult 10 game schedule in NCAA History?”
Answer: Feleipe Franks.
What they say after “Franks” is up to you.
My guess? You’ll carve out a heck of a legacy again. The guy who helped Florida football remember it could win again. The guy who helped a proud and once-storied Arkansas program move out of the wilderness and back into the mainstream.
That’s the kind of talent you have.
Plus, you’ve faced adversity before.
Jim McElwain saw the 6-6 NFL frame and rocket arm he recruited and threw you to the Wolverines (literally, the Michigan Wolverines and a top-10 defense) as a redshirt freshman.
Walking out onto that field in Dallas, with the program’s culture on fire off the field — that would have been a challenge for any kid, in truth.
But to ask it of you as a freshman, especially at a place like Florida, where the sun rises and sets with the quarterback? That was madness.
By midseason, McElwain was gone, the season was lost and the story was you were in over your head.
Plenty of kids would have pouted about it.
You went back in the spring, under a new staff, and got to work.
It wasn’t easy under Mullen, either. They booed you in your home building in a loss to Missouri. You heard the boos, too. You wouldn’t have shushed the crowd while leading an epic 4th-quarter comeback against South Carolina if you didn’t. You wouldn’t have taken so much joy in vanquishing all those Michigan demons in routing the Wolverines in the Peach Bowl if you didn’t.
Then came last year and that injury against Kentucky.
You’ve got your battle scars. You’ve shown plenty of character facing down all these challenges. They’ve made you tougher, smarter. They’ve prepared you for this moment, this monumental challenge.
That’s why Arkansas is so lucky to have you as their quarterback.
That’s why even if it’s a year late in a strange place, this year will be your year.