With just two years of high school football experience under his belt, Jarrod Franklin is doing pretty good for himself.
It’s hard to miss the University High senior when he’s on the field, not only because of his playmaking abilities, but because the utility man hardly ever leaves the field.
Franklin’s forte is in the secondary as a strong or free safety, but the Cubs have used him in just about every role possible this season, utilizing him at running back, wide receiver, return man, in kickoff coverage, in punt team coverage, and not to mention all over on defense.
“It’s definitely something I enjoy,” Franklin said of being a three-way player. “It’s an opportunity to get out on the field and show what I have on both sides of the ball and show other people I can play both sides. When I get in there, I try to make the most of it because I don’t know when I’m coming out or coming in.”
It’s not often Franklin comes out of the game, and his work on the field has his coach calling him “a jack of all trades.”
“He’s kind of a stalwart for us on defense,” U-High coach Chad Mahaffey said. “He really doesn’t come off the field. If we put him as a full-time offensive guy, I think he’s pretty explosive there. We’re trying to use him as much as we can, but we don’t want to pull him out on defense ever.”
Franklin began playing football in middle school, taking motivation and pointers from his uncle who was a linebacker in his high school days. It took Franklin until his junior year at U-High to put the pads back on, but it didn’t take him nearly as long to get back in the swing of things, earning second-team all-state honors that year.
“He’s a lot more than an unsung hero,” Mahaffey said. “He’s a very good player, and one of our main guys. He’s very explosive, he’s physical, he’s a good hitter. He’s a downhill player, and he’s really aggressive. Those things stand out on film when you’re watching him.”
College scouts across the country have taken notice.
The 6-foot, 193-pounder, who also excels on the track in the 110-meter hurdles, long jump and different relays, has piled up a number of offers from Division I schools, including McNeese St., South Alabama and Southern Illinois, but said Memphis and Houston currently lead the pack.
“You’re not too far from home,” Franklin said of his potential college options. “The programs seem to be doing pretty good, the education is a plus, and I like the facilities. I talked to my parents about it and they like them too, so that’s a plus.”
Franklin said he looks up to Cincinnati Bengals safety Taylor Mays as a model football figure and hopes his skills mimic that of the former second-round NFL draft pick.
“My biggest strength is definitely breaking for the ball and my footwork. I like coming down to the ball a lot,” said Franklin, who also acknowledged the areas he wants to improve on.
“My weakness right now, I think, is man-on-man. I need to execute that better.”
Wherever Franklin does end up in the future, Mahaffey knows one thing for sure: some school will be getting a true diamond in the rough.
“He’s far from a finish product just because he hasn’t played that much football, so I think he’s really going to blossom once he gets into college,” Mahaffey said. “I think he’s still got a lot of potential ahead of him.”