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Florida Gators looking forward to hooking up with Feleipe Franks again

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
At left, Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks rushes for a big gain against Texas A&M during the game Oct. 31 in College Station, Texas. At right, Franks pictured running the ball against Kentucky during the game Sept. 14, 2019, in Lexington, Ky.

Even when the Gators were stringing together wins with Feleipe Franks at quarterback, Florida fans, in general, never warmed to him. Nor he to them.

The relationship was strained. The best example of that was when Franks shushed the crowd in The Swamp after scoring a touchdown against South Carolina in 2018, one week after he’d been benched in a loss to Missouri.

It was a totally different story when it came to Franks and his Gator teammates and coaches. Those relationships were close, strong, unbreakable. Even now.

“Feleipe is like family to me. I love him to death,” UF quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said.

“Everyone's close to him,” junior running back Malik Davis said. “He was a great teammate, and a great brother.”

From 2019:Franks announces he’s leaving UF program

So, Franks will have two different kinds of homecomings when he returns to The Swamp on Saturday night as the starting quarterback for the resurgent Arkansas Razorbacks.

One will feature hugs, smiles and pleasant conversations on the field during pregame warmups.

The other will be one of indifference in the stands, from a fan base that has moved way, way past Franks with what Kyle Trask has been doing at quarterback for the Gators.

The fans may not care much anymore, but Franks’ former team is looking forward to the reunion.

“For sure,” Johnson said. “We have a great relationship. I still talk to him quite often. The reason you get into coaching is really about the relationships. Regardless if he’s here or not, he’s someone we spent a lot of time with. We keep in constant contact. I’m really proud of what he’s been able to accomplish this year. I’m looking forward to seeing him in person this weekend.

“I’m excited for him. I know he’s probably excited to get back here and get the chance to play in The Swamp. He’s done a great job all year long.”

From 2019:5 questions with QB Feleipe Franks

Senior center Brett Heggie said it’s going to be somewhat surreal seeing Franks in The Swamp, on the opposing sideline and in an opponent’s uniform. 

“It will be different for sure,” he said. “Me and him, obviously, are really close friends. It willl be different to see him in another jersey. One thing for sure, I know he's a competitor. He’s going to come prepared and come ready to play. But so will we, so it should be fun.”

Heggie and Franks were part of the same recruiting class and were roommates when Franks made the decision to transfer after last season. Franks also was close with some of the other offensive linemen. They all competed against each other in pool wrestling.

So, it was tough for Heggie and others to say goodbye to Franks.

“I hated to see him go,” Heggie said. “We were really close friends since our freshman year. He was with me from fourth-string days to starting. It was difficult to see him go, but that was his decision. I respected that decision and supported him.”

Franks also was close to many of the defensive players. But those relationships were a little bit different, at least on the practice field, because they were always competing against each other.

And when football players are competing, there’s lots of talk going on back and forth.

“It was always fun going at it with Feleipe in practice,” junior defensive end Zachary Carter said. “He was a vocal guy, so you chirp at him, he’s definitely going to chirp back. And we had a couple of altercations at practice, but it’s exciting that you’ve been going against somebody for so long and you finally have the opportunity to play them in a real game. So, that will be interesting.”

Franks would often boast in practice that he could run guys over on certain plays. But no one had a chance to see him actually do it because the quarterbacks are always in non-contact jerseys.

So, challenge on Saturday night

“In practice you cannot touch that quarterback,” junior linebacker James Houston said. “If you touch that quarterback you’re going to be in trouble. It’s fun hitting someone that you couldn’t lay a finger on for four years. It should be fun seeing how that D-line especially gets after it.

“Feleipe definitely had his little chirping battles with the defense over whether he would run somebody over on a certain play or not. Saturday we’re going to really get to definitely see if he’s about that or if we're about that. So, we’ll see.”

Saturday

Who: Arkansas (3-3) vs. No. 5 Florida (4-1)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850