When Jaylan Franklin reflects on his high school athletics career, he is proud of the fact that he never took a break from his busy sports schedule. Football in the fall, basketball in the winter, track and field in the spring, AAU hurdles in the summer. He even managed to letter in baseball, too.
Franklin looks at the big picture and sees value in learning how to interact with multiple coaches across a wide range of sports. He also is astute enough to know that recent studies suggest athletes who specialize in one sport are at a higher risk for injury.
“It’s definitely taught me a lot,” Franklin told Land of 10. “There’s a lot of people who are single-minded when they play football alone. I’ve had different coaches and been able to get coached in different ways. That’s kind of what college football is. You’re always going to get coached up by different people at all times. You never know when it can change.
“I also think it helped my communication skills and helped me grow a lot rather than just working on football things the whole time. I think I’m very athletic because of the things I’ve done besides football.”
Franklin said he believes all of those experiences have adequately prepared him for the next step, which will take him to the University of Wisconsin. He already has signed with the Badgers as a member of the 2018 football recruiting class and will arrive on campus in June to play tight end.
The question is: Just how good can he be when he finally focuses on one sport?
“I know the sky is always the limit,” said Jaylan’s father, Marvin. “He’s always been so busy. We’ve had all our kids in multi sports since they were little. I will be interested to see, but the sky is the limit. I’m telling you, this kid is going to be really, really good.”
Franklin will enter Wisconsin’s program at a position with which he has limited familiarity. He played some wide receiver in high school and attended summer camps as a receiver as well. But he spent his last two seasons starring at quarterback, as well as outside linebacker and safety for Carlson High School in Gibraltar, Mich. The biggest challenge will be adding enough weight to make an impact in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin coaches have told Franklin they would like to see him eventually reach 230 or 235 pounds. Right now, the 6-foot-5 Franklin weighs 212 pounds and said he hopes to reach 220 by the time he arrives on campus. But for someone who is constantly burning calories by playing multiple sports, that task has not been easy. And it has put a dent in his parents’ grocery bill.
“He was like, ‘I need to start eating peanut butter and jelly,'” said Jaylan’s mother, Pam. “‘You need to buy two loaves of bread, three containers of peanut butter, jelly and gallons of milk. I don’t want to be redshirted. I want to play my freshman year.’ I was like, ‘All right.’ So I bought it. He started making them.
“He would eat one at home in the morning, he would pack one on his way to school. As soon as he got out of school, he would eat them and eat another one at night. I’d lose my mind off of peanut butter and jelly like that.”
Franklin’s parents say they are confident that Wisconsin’s strength and conditioning program and nutrition staff will put the right kind of weight on him. The goal is to bulk up while maintaining the type of athleticism that has made Franklin such a special high school player.
Marvin said Jaylan’s determination comes from being the youngest of three brothers; he constantly had to prove himself to neighborhood kids so he could compete with them. Playing more than one sport came naturally for Jaylan and runs in the family. Pam played basketball, softball and tennis in college at Kentucky State. Marvin ran track at Eastern Michigan before he transferred to Kentucky State, where he met Pam.
Jaylan Franklin’s junior season highlights
Jaylan grew up dreaming of playing football for Michigan State and nearly committed to the Spartans. But everything changed when he visited Wisconsin and fell in love with the campus and the football culture. He had been looking for a top-tier football program that would also allow him to thrive academically.
Badgers inside linebackers coach Bob Bostad began recruiting Franklin when he was an assistant coach at Northern Illinois. That relationship continued to blossom when Bostad returned to Wisconsin. Franklin said he appreciated that Bostad dug beneath the surface level to learn who he was as a person and even took the time to meet his grandparents. Initially, Franklin was recruited as an outside linebacker, but spots quickly filled up and he moved to offense.
Franklin’s parents had been pushing for him to attend Northwestern because of its strong academic reputation. But they were pleased to learn that Wisconsin was a nationally ranked institution in Jaylan’s planned college major of computer science.
“Other schools, I won’t mention names, when you get offered for football, you don’t have to do the admissions application,” Pam said. “You don’t have to write an essay. You don’t have to do everything another common student would have to do.
“The University of Wisconsin ― Jaylan had to do a school application, he had to write three essays. So I thought that was very impressive. People often think that athletes get a pass into schools just because they’re a good athlete. At Wisconsin, I was very pleased with that.”
Franklin will arrive at Wisconsin having experienced no shortage of athletic success. As a freshman, he and his older brother helped to set the school record in the 4×400 relay. He earned all-state in track and field as a junior by finishing seventh in the 300-meter hurdles (39.44 seconds).
During his three-year varsity football career, Franklin recorded 1,504 passing yards, 888 rushing yards, 145 receiving yards and 33 total touchdowns. But the numbers always have been less important to Franklin than the results. His high school coach, Jack Giarmo, relays a story that illustrates the point.
Giarmo interviewed for the vacant Carlson football coach opening last offseason, and Franklin served on the interview committee. Giarmo remembers Franklin asking him several mature questions and was impressed with how Franklin handled himself. Then, Giarmo asked Franklin what his own expectations were for his senior season.
“And he says, ‘Coach, I just want to win,'” Giarmo recalled. “‘I don’t care how we do it, what we do. I want to win. I want to be successful.’ That kind of got me excited a little bit as a coach.”
To win, Franklin had to sacrifice individual statistics for the good of the team. That’s because Giarmo implemented the T-formation offense, which features three running backs lining up in a row behind the quarterback and requires fakes, trickery ― and very little passing. Franklin threw for 630 yards and 10 touchdowns the whole season.
“It was extremely hard,” Franklin said. “It was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do up to this point football-wise. You have to fake the whole time. It took months for us to master. I started working out before everyone else did. I actually started working out in January. That’s when I started to learn the plays. In the summer, that’s when everybody caught up.”
Franklin’s hard work paid off. Carlson opened the season 7-0 to earn its first playoff appearance since 2009 and then won its first playoff game since 2006. In that playoff game, Franklin was forced to leave during the first half after he sustained a painful injury. One week earlier, he said, he had pinched three or four nerves in his neck and shoulder. He went to a chiropractor every day but aggravated the injury in the playoffs while landing awkwardly after hurdling a defender. Carlson fell behind 19-7 against New Boston Huron early in the third quarter without him.
Undeterred, Franklin returned and scored 1 of his 2 rushing touchdowns to help lead Carlson to a 29-19 comeback victory. He also recovered the game-clinching fumble on defense with 3:07 left.
If that performance is any indication, he should fit in just fine at Wisconsin.
“I think it shows that I’m a natural-born winner,” Franklin said. “That’s all I want to do is win.”