Social media animosity a constant for family of Gators’ quarterback

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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks threw for 254 yards and two scores and ran for another as the Gators defeated Miami on Aug. 24 for just the second time in their last nine meetings with the Hurricanes. [Matt Pendleton/Correspondent]

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.”


Saturday

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

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

25 COMMENTS

  1. Another inaccurate hit piece by Gator media desperate for stories. The people in the stands overwhelmingly support the team and Franks. The people who attack on social media are mostly trolls of other teams masquerading as Gator fans. But here we are two weeks removed from our WIN over Miami and you and Edgar still can’t get away from perpetuating negativity.

    • I agree. I have noticed the media likes to base many of their articles on what people say on FB and other social media, especially Twitter. It’s lazy and easy reporting. Ironically, with news coming out every 15 secs bc of social media, social media has bc a source of news bc it is quick and easy. And superficial and inaccurate. The truth is those comments by people are half truths. They are often immediate reactions. They don’t involve any reflection, and , therefore, do not really indicate the honest opinion of the person–assuming they aren’t trolls from Ga or FSU. Personally, when the Gators make a bad play, I throw pillows at the TV. If someone took a picture of that and put it on social media, I would look differently than I would after the game, after a win, with me smiling and drinking a beer. SM captures a brief moment in time–which may be a frustrating one. But it ain’t accurate. You’re right. When the G’ville Sun , NY Times , etc start writing articles based on junk in, they will get junk out. Of course Felipe needs to improve. But, a benchmark of his improvement is that he had a “bad” game by social media standards and still threw for 254 yards and two TD’s. I would have taken that in a heartbeat under WM or the Whale Whisperer. He is a big play QB. We have a big play D. We will give up yards and give up possessions. But big plays will be the hallmark of this team.

  2. I can have empathy, even sympathy, and have been in his corner regardless. The fact is, however, he’s simply got to step it up. Nothing personal, I assure you, and it’s not as though I have any say in this at all. But the fact still remains, he has got to step it up now.

    • Take away the turnovers and he played a pretty good game against one of the better defenses he’ll face this season. It was one of his top 5 best passing games of his career and the way fans reacted, you’d have thought it was 2017 all over again. I think that gets lost in the fact that he threw 2 dumb interceptions, but so did Trevor Lawrence. He’s going to throw interceptions, that’s a given. Some of the all time greatest QBs in NFL history are in the top 10 of most thrown in a career. Brett Favre is number 1. I think the fans just need to lay off for a bit and not nit pick every little thing he does. I mean when he’s getting bashed for his facial hair, then it’s at a pretty ridiculous level. I’m surprised he’s able to focus at all with how much criticism he gets on a daily basis. I don’t think he regressed at all. I believe he was too juiced up in the first game of the season against an instate rival and was trying to do a little too much and made a couple dumb mistakes. I have no doubt he’ll settle down and clean it up.

      • That may well be, Joe — I’ve come to trust your insights and am hoping that’s it. Not just Franks, but the entire team seemed to have to knock off a lot of rust during that game — some surprising like all the arm tackles and erratic pass defense, some part of the game that can logically be called mistakes that can happen in any game, not just in front of a national audience. If you take away some of the indiscipline (applied fairly equally to both teams) you come away with the team wanting it the most actually winning. That was us in this instance, so hoorey for the good guys……but a concern remains regardless since Miami and Florida were not and are not peers in football talent. OK, that happens, Miami is a Power-5 team, and we’ve had two weeks to correct all that + one more week to get ready for a team that knows they can beat us if we let them. Put differently, no slack and no excuses after this Saturday. That’s what I’m talking about — this team can in fact be a very special team this year, and as the QB, Franks simply needs now to step it up for once and for all. If he can’t, somebody who can needs a shot — the stakes are high. I don’t Facebook and I don’t even know for sure what Tweets and that other stuff is or isn’t, but I can imagine that it’s brutal if for no other reason than our pal, GI, articulates below. Beyond that, to paraphrase a familiar source, “Just step it up, baby, and win baby win”!

  3. The majority of responses I hear from Feleipe remind me of the guy that ran the program prior to CDM.
    “Everybody on this team has my back. Coaches have my back, and really, that’s all I’m worried about….”
    That rings of the circle the wagons mentality that his first UF coach brought to the table. It is a turn off to the vast majority of fans that just want him to succeed and loudly cheer his good plays and quietly grumble at his bad ones. If he and/or his mother are looking to Twitter or any social media for some kind of feel good back and forth it is just not going to happen. The opposite in fact. I hope that in the coming season and beyond Feleipe can find some peace with the Gator fan base and realize that there are so many that wish him nothing but the best. Stay off social media and listen to the roar of crowd when he throws his next TD.

  4. Jeffery, I doubt if Frank’s mother (who had to close her account) would call this a hit piece. Just because haters are a minority doesn’t make their damage any less real. Franks isn’t always the best, but I do believe he is trying hard. When there is someone better – CDM will put them in. In the meantime, his family should get nothing but respect for his efforts.

  5. “Would you say those same things in person after having a conversation to find out the other person’s perspective?” -Gatorsports.com quote.

    Well, I think FEW PEOPLE today have the audacity, the moxie if you will, to ”say those things in person.” In fact, in this day & age of ”social media smack talk,” I’ve seen more fake bravery ”on-line” than I used to witness in the college bars on Univ. Ave. by drunk frat boys back in the day (the 90’s).

    But I know the solution for today, Mr. Feleipe Franks. And that’s what we Florida fans should be ”encouraging.” So I will say (type) it here or in person to Feleipe Franks for the world to see.

    Feleipe, dude, ”JUST WIN BABY!” And the ”Gator Nation” will start to love you. But win BIG TIME GAMES, and they may build a statue of you. So just relax, play ball, and please stop acting like a rapper from ”2 Live Crew” on the sidelines (yea, I’m old), and the Gator Nation will warm up to you even more. And do all that with some BIG TIME WINS and SMILES (against UGA, etc…) and hell, the ”FLORIDA SKY is the limit.”

    But if you still don’t believe me, Feleipe, then just ask Kerwin Bell, Shane Matthews, Danny Wonderful, and of course, ask Tim Tebow. Hell, ask Chris Leak, he knows ”both sides of that fence,” too! But Chris Leak went on to win a National Championship his SR. year at U.F., and SHUT UP many ”naysayers in Orange & Blue.” But for now, Franks, ”Just win baby!” Go Gators!

    • I’m not so sure all of Gator nation will ever warm up to him. There’s a lot of fans that do have his back, but there seems to be far more that don’t and those fans seem to be the loudest. I think he’s at a point in some fans eyes that he can never come back from. There’s far too many that are going to criticize him no matter what he does. He could throw for 350 yards and 6 TDs, but if he throws 1 dumb interception, then that’s all some people will focus on. I mean he won 10 games and demolished Michigan in a New Years 6 bowl and the team finished #7 in the nation and he was still being criticized. Unfortunately for him, he’s going to be dealing with negativity more than acceptance for as long as he’s here. Lets just hope the next guy doesn’t face the same level of scrutiny. All Gator QBs face some sort of it, but Franks seems to have taken far more than anyone else, and he’s got Mac and Nuss to thank for throwing him to the fire way before he was ready.

      • But Joe, with Franks isn’t it the TYPE of mistakes he makes that welcomes this criticism? Case in point – our D made a HUGE stop with 4 minutes in the game against UM. We could have nearly run out the clock after that. CDM recognized we did need to keep the chains moving, so he sent in a pass play. And at that CRITICAL moment, Franks made a mistake that was nearly devastating. He got scared and chucked the ball in the middle of the field, around and among multiple Miami defenders. It is THAT kind of mistake that makes it really hard for fans to rally around him, because it makes every tight game feel REALLY tenuous … like we aren’t going to be able to trust him in those big moments.

        Look, going on social media or wherever to trash him and his family is garbage. Indefensible nonsense. But criticism of his play, when warranted, I think is fair game.

  6. It’s the reality of the modern world that the haters are gonna hate on social media. I read that Daisy Ridley of the new Star Wars movies had to go into therapy after all the nasty attacks she got. It happens to just about anyone who gets any fame these days whether in sports, movies, music. Kudos to Mrs. Franks for standing up for her son, and I hope she and the whole family can enjoy the experience and keep on cheering for Felipe.

    I have been on the fence as far as feedback goes– it seemed to me last year that Franks actually played better after he was booed. But, I will say this– leave Mom alone!!!! All the Moms! You do not go after someone’s mother!

      • Exactly right Jeffrey. Mayfield runs around the horseshoe with an OU flag and jambs it in the O on the 50 yard line and everyone but Ohio State fans love him for it. I didn’t see any fans criticizing Gardner-Johnson when he tried doing the same thing to FSU last year either. Franks talks to the camera one time and suddenly he’s an immature jerk that needs to focus on the game. The 2 interceptions and Franks talking to the camera is all anyone’s really focusing on. Forget about the fact that he had a 63% completion percentage and scored all 3 TDs in the game, just bash him for that. It’s crazy! As long as you win games, which he did, talk to the camera and talk trash all you want. It’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun.

  7. While I did say Franks’ performance against Miami was mediocre (I still stand by that), he is a good QB. The question is whether he will become a great QB. He has the entire rest of this season to prove the latter. To become a NFL QB, he needs to become a great QB. He knows how to do this, and has the best coaches to help him accompish this. It is up to Felippe Franks – nobody else can make this happen. GO GATORS!!!

  8. Dan can make this situation simpler by defining rules of behavior for Franks. If Franks sticks to focusing on being a good QB he should be able to get that done by following his coaching and using his natural ability. Dan should drop the hammer on behavior that is below the Gator Standard that he’s frequently talking about. Protect Franks from himself, enforce rules to stop the nonsense that brings the criticism and the Gators, Franks, the coaches and Gator Nation will be a lot better off. Franks needs better discipline but he won’t find it by himself.

  9. There have been other QBs at Florida who have had the same problems as Franks and they have never received the abuse he has. I think, in part it is because of his personality and actions on the sidelines. It is annoying to me to see him running up and down in front of the fans whenever he has success instead of just returning to the bench and spending time with his teammates. Despite the fact that he always talks about the team and not himself, his comments don’t seem genuine but things he thinks he is supposed to say. With all of their failures, Driscoll et al always seemed genuine and unhappy with their performance. Franks just seems to be unaware. Perhaps that’s inaccurate, but that is the way that it appears.

  10. I have empathy for Franks. He puts his body on the line for the Gator Nation and is bashed by the fans.
    It reminds me when we came home from Nam we were treated badly. All we did was put our life on the line for our country. I’m glad the Iraq and Afaganistan returning guys are treated well.

  11. May I add some human perspective…

    Felipe has endured more “undeserved” criticism than any Gator in my memory. (I have been watching since 1966.) Some of this is because of his antics, and I also disapprove of some of his behavior. BUT! I can understand some of his actions and release of frustration he feels from the unfair personal attacks.

    We gotta remember he is a small town kid and the product of a limited football education from a small town (yet successful) football program. How sophisticated were the defenses he faced at Wakulla High? I would say, “Not very!”. And then he came to UF and was thrown into the fire as a true freshman by a coach who was desperate but clueless. It was a huge (and predictable) cluster… of errors.

    In his FIRST year of “real coaching” he made tremendous strides and his play was a major factor in an astounding rebound from a decade of disappointment to GatorNation. THAT should be how we are evaluating him at this point in time.

    This year is his true Junior season…and only his second year with a great mentor and teacher. Yet he is compared to other kids who CAME to the college game with better background coaching than Franks never had until LAST year.

    We would all like to see the return of Tebow and Danny as far as sideline behavior. Do NOT forget, however, the sideline passion that SOS was derided for…He invented the visor throw! And he could throw a barb (still can!) with the best of them. And we all say God Bless Steve Spurrier!

    As for Felipe, I will stand beside and behind him for now and hope to see him prosper… rather than wait to see him fail! He IS a Gator and I will stick together! Go Gators!

  12. All good and positive comments with merit, and I personally would like to sit down with this fine young man and perhaps smoke a couple of cigars together while I pick his excellent mind about a number of subjects, not limited to football.

    But the fact still remains, he has got to step it up and step it up now. No more one step forward and two backward. No more two forward and one back. No more anything but consistently playing at or near his potential. No matter how any one of us feels about him, positive or negative, that is what he has to do now.

  13. Three observations regarding this topic
    1. Part of Feleipe’s problem is that it (meaning the Gator team) is always about him (meaning the narcissistic preening, “I don’t care if nobody likes me” prima-donna). From reading and listening to his pre and post-game comments, you would not know that there are 21 other players (plus special teams) involved in the game. He rarely gives praise or recognition for the great block, the superb catch, the extra effort of the running back, or the relentless pursuit of the defensive line. It is always about him, and how he wants to win. Although it is largely the focus of the media, he could easily and unselfishly change the subject by talking about his teammates for a change. I, for one, would welcome this, as I have grown weary of reading and hearing about poor put-upon Feleipe. Grow-up, shut-up, get-up with dignity and play the game with all 21+ other players.
    2. Unfortunately for him, Franks suffers in comparison to many of the other QBs in the SEC. There are several who are demonstrably better than he, and most are more mature and conduct themselves as leaders. Franks is at best a second tier performer on the SEC stage, and arguably even more mediocre on the national scene. Two who come to mind are Tua and Jake; both surrounded by NFL caliber talent, yet clearly the leaders and “Alpha Dogs” on their teams, without any chest thumping or histrionics for the cameras and the sidelines. It is curious to see Frank’s (lack of) meaningful interaction with his teammates when he is on the sidelines. It is not that he is a bad QB, as much as the fact that he is not nearly as good as others who have had less time and opportunity to develop. If he were as good as he thinks he is, he would not be having problems with the fans or the media.
    3. I hope that only the media (because they are part of it and now exploit it for what used to be journalism) actually believe that (anti)social media can be relied upon for moral support and positive interaction of any type. For the Franks family (and any family) to believe that they can positively influence the sociopaths that dominate anti-social media is at best wishful thinking, but more accurately delusional. To even build an article around the premise of anti-social media commentary is to begin and end with a focus on the worst negative influences of our modern culture and society. It also spares the so-called journalist of the need to conduct any research or frame any meaningful questions in a constructive context.
    To summarize:
    Franks is his own worst enemy.
    He is at best a middle-of-the-pack performer in a conference loaded with talent.
    Anti-social media is a low-rent, low-effort, low intelligence foundation for meaningful journalism