SEC Media Days: Feleipe Franks' surprising MLB Draft news is a fitting reminder of his extraordinary gift
HOOVER, Ala. — It had been half a decade since Feleipe Franks picked up a baseball.
The last time he did that was when he was an underclassman at Wakulla High School (Fla.). Back then, Franks topped out at about 89-90 MPH.
So naturally, when the Florida quarterback stepped on the rubber after the Boston Red Sox surprisingly picked him in the 31st round of the 2019 MLB Draft, he brought the heat. Like, 94 MPH heat.
“I don’t know how. I literally haven’t picked up a baseball in 4-5 years,” Franks said Monday at SEC Media Days. “I don’t know. I guess it just came natural.”
“It just came natural.”
Imagine seeing a radar gun in the mid-90s after not picking up a baseball for 5 years. You probably can’t. Why? You don’t have a gift of an arm like Franks. There might not be anyone in college football who does.
Florida players? They didn’t have a tough time believing it.
“That just shows you how good of an athlete he is,” Florida running back Lamical Perine said. “You could throw him at receiver right now at 6-6, 240 running a 4.6 (40-yard dash).”
In the meantime, Franks is Dan Mullen’s quarterback. He’s the same guy who Mullen has had to work with to control that blessed arm of his. He’s the same guy who Mullen said needed to learn how to not listen to quarterback coaches on Twitter.
He’s the same guy who could help out Mullen’s favorite baseball team. You know, once Franks’ football career closes.
“As a Red Sox fan, it looks like they need a lot of help in the bullpen. I think he can throw. He’s got a lot of heat,” Mullen said. “He’s still working on his accuracy, so I don’t know if I’d want to get in the batter’s box with him.”
Franks isn’t sold on Mullen’s reasoning.
“No, (Mullen) wouldn’t wanna be in there because he doesn’t wanna get struck out,” Franks joked. “I haven’t thrown in a while so I wasn’t perfect, but I was in the strike zone.”
Being in the strike zone on the football field is Franks’ focus in the immediate future.
Last year, Franks improved from 54.6% to 58.4% accuracy with a jump of 6.3 to 7.6 yards per attempt. Franks finished the season with 5 consecutive games without an interception. He had the best statistical season of any Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow, who of course played under Mullen when he was Florida’s offensive coordinator for that national title team in 2008.
Mullen reminded everyone that Tebow was another Florida quarterback who went the baseball route after his football career wrapped up. Franks definitely doesn’t have Tebow’s college résumé, but in terms of arm talent? Nobody can argue with that.
“Hey,” Perine said. “If (Franks) can throw a baseball like that, imagine how he throwin’ the pigskin.”
Perine doesn’t have to imagine that. He knows how much mustard is on Franks’ fastball when he has to catch a quick slant from the junior quarterback. Florida defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga doesn’t have to imagine that, either. A couple years ago in practice, Zuniga jammed his finger because it caught a piece of one of Franks’ fastballs.
There are public and private stories of Franks’ cannon. Obviously everyone remembers his Hail Mary game-winner against Tennessee in 2017.
Tennessee is dead, Feleipe Franks killed them pic.twitter.com/h3vSOTTLoJ
— Dead Serious (@Deadseriousness) September 16, 2017
According to Perine, he’s seen Franks throw 75 yards with just “straight arm.” Zuniga was asked about a time after practice when Franks allegedly threw it into the upper deck of The Swamp from the opposite 20-yard line.
“I didn’t see that,” Zuniga said. “But he probably did, though.”
The arm already wowed MLB scouts. In all likelihood, it’ll wow NFL scouts, too.
Franks’ biggest focus is continuing to develop throwing the intermediate routes in Mullen’s system. Admittedly, he was asked to do that far more than he did under Jim McElwain. Franks feels like he’s getting to a place where he can make any throw from any place on the field.
“I’ve always been able to throw shorter routes. I don’t always throw a fastball. I throw a changeup, curveball,” Franks said.
Perine and the other Florida skill players would probably prefer to have to catch as few curveballs as possible. Florida fans would probably prefer that, too. Well, Franks could probably throw knuckleballs if it meant leading Florida to a division title.
For now, though, he’ll keep using that gift … and hopefully keeping it in the strike zone.