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Special day at Saturday’s Blue and White game

UNIVERSITY PARK – You see him rallying his team, motivating them, praising them as well as the fans and all of Nittany Nation. The professional persona that the second year coach of the the Lions shows is one that many have quickly admired. But when the lights are off, cameras are shutdown and the microphones are put away, the question to some is “Is the arora and the guise that he shows on the field the same when he is off the field. My answer to that it a definite…..YES. I recently had the privilege as a coach of the Mifflin County Special Olympics to be apart a lifetime memory along with 23 others from my county as well as 24 Centre County special Olympian coaches and athletes to be part of the Blue/white football game festivities. I found out by some high up members of the ” people in the know” that it was Coach Franklin’s idea to include our groups. Being invited to the big Spring game was an honor enough to be remembered but what the Coach and the committee for the Paterno run and Blue/White events included us in with the goings on at legendary Beaver Stadium was a dream come true for a bunch of my athletes. After meeting before the game, the kids got shirts and name tags and the first of many surprises. Minutes later, In the distance the three players buses drove up the road  and were dropped off in front of the athletes. Who was the first one off the bus? It was Coach Franklin. He immediately walked over and started shaking hands with the fans. Two of my veteran football players, Bobby “Hollywood” Fisher and Walter “the Rocket” Snyder slowly walked towards him shyly. When it was brought to the Coach’s attention he made a direct B-line to them and stopped and took time for a quick on the spot photo session. After taking photos and signing a few autographs, the coach got his players off the bus and the walk to Beaver Stadium, like they do every game day, was beginning. As all the players went through, they had all Centre and Mifflin athletes March with them in the line. As the Nittany Lions shook the hands of the fans, so did the athletes as the fans fell immediately in love with these kids who have quietly worked their way to being stars in their own right. Smiles filled the players faces as the crowds grew bigger and bigger as the stadium got closer and closer. When they made their way to the tunnel to walk out and get autographs from the players, their jaws dropped when they walked out onto the field. Heads were turning all through the line as they saw the enormity of the stadium. But that was not it yet for the group of 48. Before going through the line to get autographs, Franklin, himself walked back through to sign the first autographs for many. He seemed to be enjoying it as much as the crowd was. He never once rushed through or denied an autograph. He was just as he had been shown in the media, on television and on the radio. He was the real deal. One of the signs as well of a good coach is the members of the team he coaches. In that case, he was batting 1.000 on this day as the group, especially starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg were very obliging, happy to be there and talked to the athletes and joked around with some of them as they walked through the line. It didn’t matter if it was a defensive lineman, quarterback, wide out, whoever, the group was top notch a real class act, treating everyone with respect and a moment or two of dialog before the next signing. After the signing the group finished off the day with watching the game and routing, some for the first time live, in a stadium that they in the past could only dream of going to. So when asked what I would say if someone asked me what I think of the coach, no matter what kind of season he’s having. I would look at them and say….He is a class act and a man who wears his heart on a string which in my opinion is never a bad thing.

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