Franklin Offers Change of Pace from Lacy

Franklin (Derick Hingle - USA Today Sports)

After selecting Eddie Lacy, Packers general manager Ted Thompson didn't stop at one running back in the NFL Draft. Trading up to get UCLA's Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round, he found the Packers a well-rounded player and person.

Believe it or not, Green Bay Packers' draft pick Johnathan Franklin of UCLA has his sights set even higher than making it to the NFL.

He wants to be the mayor of Los Angeles some day.

"I will be the mayor. It's just not that I want to, I will," Franklin told the media on conference call Friday at Lambeau Field. "When I was in high school – I went to Dorsey High School - I met this guy... a big city councilman of Los Angeles. He got in to some trouble, so he started to help out with Dorsey and become involved. And he became my mentor. And I used to ask him about things going on in the community because I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I would see so many kids from the inner city fall in to trouble.

"You see a lot of negative things happening and I wanted to know his involvement with that. He started talking to me about it and I became interested with that. And I said, ‘You know what? I think I want to have an impact on the community and the city.' So he allowed me to have an internship with the mayor I would say my sophomore year at UCLA. I shadowed the mayor and followed the mayor throughout some press conferences and I just loved the impact and the involvement he had on the city. I feel L.A. needs to change so much, and so much can be changed, and I feel I'm the one to do it."

Franklin, a Los Angeles native, was a surprise pick for the Packers on Saturday in the NFL Draft. They gave up a fifth-round pick (No. 146 overall) and a sixth (No. 173) to the Denver Broncos to move back into the fourth round (No. 125 overall) after making two picks earlier in the round. But the real kicker was that they had already taken one of the draft's top backs, Eddie Lacy, in the second round Friday night. General manager Ted Thompson had taken just four running backs total in eight previous drafts with the Packers.

"I think you've watched Ted Thompson enough times in the draft that when he goes up, we're going up for something, and it's really good," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "(Franklin's) a very dynamic player. I'm excited to work with him. Just the little time I had the chance to talk to him on the phone I think he's going to be an excellent fit for us."

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Franklin offers a change of pace from Lacy. Though both project in the NFL as every-down backs, Franklin is smaller (by one inch and 25 pounds), a little quicker (by at least a tenth of a second in the 40), and is more of a one-cut runner than Lacy.

A huge senior season at UCLA put Franklin in the national spotlight. In 2012, he rushed for a school-record 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns. For his career, he totaled a school-record 4,403 rushing yards on 788 carries (5.6 per carry average) giving him considerably more tread wear on his tires than Lacy (355 carries).

Perhaps more importantly for the Packers, Franklin improved his ball security issues (going from seven fumbles to one over the past two seasons) and is an adept receiver (his 4,936 all-purpose yards are also a school record). He also got plenty of work at UCLA in pass protection, which will be put to the test in the Packers' offense.

"He was a three-down back for them at UCLA. He's done a lot of third down protection," said Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt. "You see him work the field with his eyes and do the things that we would ask him to do here."

A three-time academic honor roll student at Dorsey High in Los Angeles, Franklin lists his career objectives as becoming a psychologist, teen mentor, and motivational speaker. His hobbies include writing poetry and acting. And yes, he would like to be a mayor.

Football, however, is his immediate focus. That includes teaming with Lacy to give the Packers running game a much-needed boost.

"It's a blessing to be in this position. I'm excited," said Franklin. "I wanted to play in the National Football League. I've dreamed about this my whole life. Football is all about competing. Football is about getting better and Eddie Lacy is a great running back. It's about contributing to the team and making the Packers the best they can be."


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com

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