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Franklin discusses his parents, vulnerability, Yurcich during Coaches Caravan

Photo by Penn State Athletics

Penn State held the first stage of its Virtual Coaches Caravan on Tuesday night, featuring James Franklin, women’s soccer coach Erica Dambach, men’s lacrosse coach Mark Tambroni and softball coach Clarissa Crowell.

Hosted by PSU Alumni Association CEO Paul Clifford, there weren’t hard-hitting football questions for Franklin, as instead the event was more of a light, personal look at the coaches.

Clearly, there should have been a direct question asked of Franklin to discuss the announcement earlier Tuesday about Beaver Stadium getting to return to full capacity this fall. Having the coach on the record on that vital subject would have been worthwhile and appreciated by Penn State fans everywhere.

Instead, the questions were more about how coaches show vulnerability and who they would choose if they could pick anyone to have dinner with.

Franklin gave a good answer about the vulnerability part — which we’ll get to shortly — but it was his answer when asked about who he would have dinner with that was the most memorable part of the evening.

“My parents,” Franklin said.

He went on to say that he lost both of his parents at fairly early age, and that he would like to spend time with them and tell them how thankful he is and how appreciative he is. He also added that they’d be proud that he’s now back in Pennsylvania coaching.

Here are some of Franklin’s answers to question posed during the caravan event:

How can showing vulnerability be considered a strength?

Franklin: “Vulnerability is a big part of our program. We talk about it all the time. For us to have the type of connection that we want as a family, within our program, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. And whether that’s sharing personal stories, whether that’s having fun and being willing to laugh at yourself. We do a number of different activities, whether it’s getting up in front of the team and dancing or singing or whatever it may be. But we’re doing what we call shares — which you get up in front of the team and you basically share some personal experience about your background and your family that maybe the team doesn’t know. So we talk about vulnerability a lot.

“With COVID and my daughter have an autoimmune disease, being able to share that and not only some of the challenges we were having as a football program but also me personally, being separated from my family for the last year and a half, I thought that was important. Because I think a lot of people were going through similar things.

“Then obviously, the challenges that our country was having with some of the social issues and some of the racial relations that our country, it was a tremendous opportunity. As you know, my staff and my team is extremely diverse, and we take a lot of pride in what diversity brings. I think in our country a lot of times you have to be careful because in our country right away when you say diversity everybody right away things black and white. And diversity is so much more than that and so important. It could be racial diversity, it could be religious diversity, could be geographic diversity. There’s so many things. And and diversity is important so that you can get different perspectives and have great discussions.

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“I think that’s why the college experience is so important. Usually we all live in a certain neighborhood or certain community, and maybe it lacks diversity. So, being able to come to a college campus and meet so many different people with different backgrounds and different perspective is important. I grew up in a time like a lot of the coaches on here, where God forbid you could have a discussion with someone, and they could have a different opinion, than you, and you still respected their opinion. And I think we’ve gotten away from that a little bit as a country, where, if someone’s opinion is different than yours, they’re wrong.”

What will the offense be like with new coordinator Mike Yurcich? And about Sean Clifford fumbling when he went under center in the spring scrimmage?

“That was honestly a question I got from the media at a press conference — did you tell him to fumble on purpose while you went under center? But that was not the case. But I think it’s going to be probably very similar to what we did when we won the Big Ten championship. We’re going to be spread and we’re going to be explosive and we’re going to try to put the defense in conflict as much as we possibly can. We will be in a situation where we will mix going under center a little bit, which I know is important to our fan base and our community, but that will be a part of what we do — not a big part but it will be a part of what we do.

“I think between Coach Yurcich and his experience, I’ve known Coach Yurcich for a long time. He’s an old Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference guy, started kind of making a name for himself at Shippensburg and then made a huge jump and went to Oklahoma State and had a lot of success there. Tried to hire Mike two years ago actually and and had an opportunity to be able to get him this year. so we’re excited about him being here and I think people are going to be excited

“I think one of the differences that we’ll probably see is we’ve never really been a tempo team, we haven’t really gone fast, and that will be an aspect of our offense. It’ll just be one of a number of weapons. So, between playing great defense and trying to score a bunch of points on offense and being solid on special teams. I’m really excited about the staff, and I know Mike and his family are really excited about being here.”

Which coach have you learned a lot from? (Franklin talked a lot about Dambach).

“I’m attracted to people that are comfortable in their own skin and know who they are and how they operate. We’ve had great discussions and dialogue on the head coach’s calls and I got some perspectives and she’s got perspective. But she’s just at a point in your career, she clearly knows who she is, she clearly knows who Penn State is. And what I love is not only is she having success, but she’s doing it and having fun. And you see that with her team, she’s been able to balance not only tremendous success on the field, but also I think as coaches we have a responsibility, a lot of our student-athletes come from, you know maybe non-traditional homes, so part of our job is to show our student athletes, how we are as fathers and as moms and wives. An Erica is just, she’s acing it in every area. So she’s been a tremendous mentor to me, and I’m super proud of her and I’m happy to call her a friend.”

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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