It’s clear by now Feleipe Franks understands the enormous responsibility that comes with leading the Florida Gators from under center. He’s heard it countless times, from the coaching staff and social media alike.
He’s regarded as one of the leaders of the team, capable of leading UF’s offense in 2019 as the program strives for another top-10 finish, or more. He should be a consistent leader at worst, an apex predator on the football field at best, so say the expectations.
But Franks is human, too — and a son.
So, when the Gators claimed a 24-20 victory over Miami on Aug. 24, with much credit going to Franks’ three-touchdown performance, his mother, Ginger Franks, simply wanted to promote peace on social media rather than discord.
“Imagine a world where we encouraged one another. Where we didn’t judge a person by a few seconds we see of them. Where we took the time to talk to people to learn their story. To find out about their day or offer a helping hand or words of encouragement when they are down. Instead we criticize and say cruel things to propel we don’t even know via social media, direct messages or media,” she posted to her Twitter account. “Would you say those same things in person after having a conversation to find out the other person’s perspective? Probably not, and that is what is so sad.”
Her post came in response to the numerous attacks and criticisms suffered by Feleipe Franks — from Florida fans, rivals and national media alike.
Some were quick to point out his interceptions and fumbles — miscues, yes, but hardly evidence of regression, a conclusion many jumped to in the immediate aftermath of Florida’s win.
To the surprise, and disappointment, of many, Ginger Franks’ post wasn’t embraced by the masses.
By Monday, her Twitter account — one of the few easily accessible ways parents of football players keep up with their loved ones in 2019 — had been deactivated.
For the Franks family, the criticism never seems to dissipate, regardless of the outcome. It’s just something they’ve had to endure, been forced to adjust to, their humanity often playing second fiddle to their role as cogs in Florida’s football machine.
“Everybody is going to have an opinion. Whether you like me or not, I’m here to win games. I’m here to become the best person, the best player I can be. That’s my main focus. What everybody else thinks is really not my main concern,” Franks said Wednesday. “Everybody on this team has my back. Coaches have my back, and really, that’s all I’m worried about. And my family has my back.
“I’m here to win games. We won and that’s my main focus. Now my main focus is UT-Martin.”
Although Franks remains adamant the criticism and negativity are no longer detrimental to his play on the field, the cynicism and scrutiny have shown no sign of evaporating in his fourth season at Florida.
And for Gators coach Dan Mullen, helping Franks develop a formidable exterior impervious to the gripes and strikes of strangers has been an imperfect process. When considering the human element once again, how could it be?
“I think with anything, you constantly stop worrying about what’s out there and worry about what’s important. Outside opinions aren’t as important as inside opinions. As soon as you figure that out; it’s just hard to do,” Mullen said. “I think he’s been OK. He’s grown through a lot of that stuff. But it’s always hard.
“People don’t like to be criticized. Nobody likes to be criticized, but what you’ve got to do is really be able to block out what’s important and what’s not important within your criticism and really worry about how, right?”
It’s a thoughtful sentiment from Mullen, but one he’s aware is much easier said than done. He’s right, however, that nobody enjoys criticism, yet the key to improvement is learning where and when to listen to evaluations.
It’s an inexact process, with no clear-cut solutions or an answer key; with alternative avenues to dissolving the animosity proving futile, the Franks family seemingly endures.
Which seems worth remembering the next time Feleipe Franks feels inclined to shout “I do this” into a nearby television camera, or quiets the home crowd; he’s lashing back rather than attacking.
“That probably affects you. If you’re a musician and you write a song and you get criticized for it, or for your performance in a Broadway show, you get criticized for it,” Mullen said. “That’s tough to deal with sometimes. That’s just the world. You don’t like to hear those things sometimes. But how you respond to it is more important. Is it legitimate criticism, right? If I tell you you’re horrible, maybe you can shake it off a little easier than one of your peers or editors, or one of those deals. It’s sorting out the two things. That’s a human nature issue.”
Who: Tennessee-Martin (1-0) vs. No. 11 Florida (1-0)
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850