- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
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James Franklin learned quickly that there's no such thing as a quick shopping trip in Happy Valley -- not when you're the face of the football program.
He stopped by Wegman's, a regional grocery chain, earlier in the week to purchase five apples. He left about 90 minutes later, after four dozen-or-so fans approached him for handshakes and autographs.
"I will never do that again," Franklin said with a laugh.
Ever since the coach stepped foot in Penn State, there's been an unmistakable sense of excitement surrounding him, and he's trying to stoke that by speaking in 17 cities throughout the month of May. He'll be joined by a rotating cast of other Penn State coaches on a speaking tour that's dubbed the "Coaches Caravan," an annual event that fills up gymnasiums and hotel ballrooms.
Franklin has already visited three Pennsylvania towns -- State College, York and Hershey -- and here are the highlights of what he's said so far:
It'll take the new staff three years to fully acclimate to Penn State: That's Franklin's best estimate because it took the staff three years to feel comfortable at Vanderbilt. To get a true sense of the community and the university, Franklin said there's no substitute for time and experience."I'd say that's probably been some of the frustration when you first show up -- you're starting all over," he said. "The other end of the spectrum is the excitement, the excitement of the things and the potential this place has and the history and the tradition and the direction we’re going to take it. But you are starting all over again, developing a relationship with you guys, the media, starting to develop a relationship with people on campus and in the community and getting to know the players."
Franklin's a germaphobe: One of the more light-hearted exchanges occurred when the head coach grabbed a nearby water bottle and questioned whether it had already been opened -- and then reiterated his concern when the cap was loose."OK, I'm a germaphobe," he admitted. "I am. I have been stuck in a bathroom before. You know, the hand-dryers are really cool -- but then I don't have a towel to open the door. I will stand there for 15-20 minutes until someone comes in to get out."
He wants his assistants to move on … eventually: The key, Franklin said, is that no one moves laterally. Several of his assistants interviewed for head coaching jobs last season, and one even turned down an offer. A big part of that loyalty has derived from the staff's relationships, as their wives and children are all friends with one another."I feel like that's natural, and I want that for them," Franklin said, referring to his staff moving on for higher positions. "I want them to feel like they can reach all of their dreams at Penn State, as well."
Some scholarship players will not make the 105-player training camp roster: Franklin met with each player on the roster for 20-25 minutes, and he broke the news to some scholarship players -- although he declined to reveal any names."I hope we don't lose one," Franklin said, referring to potential transfers. "And if there is somebody that does want to move on and leave, then we'll respect that as well."
Franklin wants all of his players to graduate in three-and-a-half years: He's hoping to achieve this by encouraging players to take nine credits over the summer. That way, seniors can leave Penn State to train for the NFL combine elsewhere -- or players can pursue a master's or second major."I've seen too many times that you have that redshirt senior, typically, a true senior, that in December he's been there three-and-a-half years and he's got six credits left to graduate," Franklin said. "And he signs with an agent, and the agent is telling him he needs to go to Miami or Arizona to train for the combine and you'll go back and finish those credits up later. And they don't."
Franklin is an all-or-nothing kind of guy -- in everything: Maybe that's not too surprising, considering that he's literally been living out of his office. But Franklin acknowledged that's how he is at everything. Yes, even eating."NFL scouts bring donuts. I won't go buy a donut -- but if they're sitting there, I'll eat seven," he said. "I have an extreme personality. All or nothing."
He cares what people think: "My issue," Franklin said, "is that a lot of people say they don't care what other people think. I do." For example, Franklin said, when 45 fans approach him at Wegman's, he wants them all to have a good interaction so they leave thinking positively about him and Penn State. But, at some point, he has to walk away -- and that bothers him a bit."That's kind of my personality," he said. "People are important to me, and what people think is important to me. I think that's a strength, and I think that can probably be a weakness as well."