August 15, 2004
CAMP TONTOZONA - Emmanuel Franklin is thankful every day that he gets tired, sore and yelled at.
For a time two years ago, it looked as if he would never play football again for Arizona State.
A concussion during spring practice led to brain surgery, which put his life, not just his career, at risk. That’s because he had a family history with the affliction.
But that’s all behind him now as the Houston senior concentrates on helping the Sun Devils win more games this season.
Franklin is feeling so good these days he’s playing a position, safety, where there’s more contact, and he’s begging the medical staff to allow him to get rid of the gawky Riddell helmet he was outfitted in to provide more protection against concussions.
"They won’t let me go back to a regular helmet," he griped, smiling. "I don’t like it for aesthetic purposes. It’s kind of funny looking. Doctor (Steve) Erickson and I are chatting about that one a little bit. We’ll see."
Despite his mother’s objections, Franklin returned to competition in the spring of 2003.
He remembers the concerns. He remembers how he resolved them.
"I told myself I couldn’t go half speed because if I go half speed it increases my chances of getting hurt," he said. "The first tackling drill we did, I decided to stick my head in there and see what happens. After that, everything was kind of smooth sailing. I got a little more confident each day."
After sitting out 2002, Franklin played in nine games for ASU last season, starting four in place of the injured R.J. Oliver. He participated in a career-high 34 tackles, intercepted a pass and broke up four others.
Having played corner throughout his ASU career, Franklin requested a move to safety last spring.
"We didn’t have a whole lot of guys that had played Pac-10 football at that position," he said. "I felt confident in the other corners."
Franklin, who defies superstition by wearing No. 13, found the position to his liking.
"I like playing safety," he said. "There’s a lot of contact. You get a chance to make a whole lot of plays. The safety is the quarterback of the defense. So you get a chance to be vocal and be a leader on your side of the ball. There are a whole lot of pros and not any cons."
Franklin made enough big plays during spring ball to finish offseason workouts teaming with Riccardo Stewart in the starting lineup.
"That gave me a whole lot of confidence," said Franklin. "That’s something I hope can spill over into camp and into the season. I think I’m doing pretty good. I can do a lot better."
ASU coach Dirk Koetter hopes Franklin can conclude his career on a high note.
"Manny has obviously overcome a huge traumatic experience when you have that kind of surgery," Koetter said. "Manny has had his ups and downs in his career. I would love nothing more for him to finish his senior year on top. It would be a great story if it could end that way.
"Manny told me at the end when he got to the U of A game (he wanted) to look back and say, he knows he did his best. That’s a good way to look at it."
Franklin will have to hold off redshirt freshman Josh Barrett to remain in the lineup.
At 194 pounds Franklin is bigger than cornerback sidekicks Oliver (173), Chris McKenzie (181) and Josh Golden (174).
But he’s smaller than the 218-pound Stewart.
"My coach wants me to put on six or seven pounds, but I feel pretty good where I am," Franklin said.
Franklin said he has thought about applying for a medical hardship since he lost one of his four years of eligibility.
"Depending on how the season goes, there’s a pretty good chance I will," he said.
Franklin is sporting a bald head, which he says "makes me feel like I’m flying around." But every day he looks in the mirror, he sees the scar from his surgery.
"Scars are just tattoos with better stories," he said when asked what he thinks when seeing it.
Franklin is feeling good about everything. He and fellow starters Oliver, McKenzie and Stewart share a house. His experience gives him a different perspective on playing college ball.
"When I didn’t know I was going to play football or not, that’s all I was thinking about every day. Man, I hope I can play. Man I hope I can play," Franklin said.
"So now, regardless of what happens, I’m just glad to know that I was able to give it my all and finish out my career as a college football player, not a college football cheerleader."