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Mizzou quarterback James Franklin — and father Willie Franklin — praised for faith


Mizzou quarterback James Franklin is the son of Willie Franklin, who played tight end for the University of Oklahoma and later played for the Baltimore Colts in the NFL. (Photo by US Presswire, via www.cbssports.com)

CBS Sports’ college football columnist, Dennis Dodd, has high praise for University of Missouri quarterback James Franklin and his father — well-known minister and former NFL-er Willie Franklin.
Granted, the praise comes in a column published three days before Mizzou’s 41-20 shellacking in their Southeastern Conference debut against No. 7 Georgia. (Please allow this UGA grad school alum a tiny bit of schadenfreude at the expense of a brother in Christ. Credit James Franklin and Mizzou for hanging in there for three quarters before succumbing to “Old man football.”)
But Dodd’s praise has little to do with the football prowess of either Franklin.

Both of them answer questions with the same clipped, military-style “yes sir” and “no sir.” Both are college football veterans. Both are devout Christians, the model son a replica of his father, an evangelical minister. …
There is nothing new for Willie, who leads his flock from his home in Dallas. He prepares for life the same way, every day. They call this African-American man “Uncle Chocolate,” even some of the Missouri players. Back in 1976, as a young evangelist, his life was laid out for him after some preaching in Alabama. A 12-year old boy asked him to be his dad.
“I just started crying,” Willie said. “To have a white kid down in Alabama tell a black man, ‘I wish you were my daddy,’ humbled me. If that kid saw something in me, I wasn’t going to let him down. Kids have always motivated me because they’re so innocent.”
The love shines through father and son like a laser. Even the simplest things can produce a rollicking laugh. Get close to James and you get close to Willie. Not too close, because Willie is likely to kiss you pretty much anywhere skin is showing. Gender doesn’t matter, nor should it. Willie Franklin does this because the Bible says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
But Willie has a past he keeps locked away in a silent place in his soul. It’s not a past to be ashamed of. Willie wasn’t the one who succumbed to alcohol or drugs or joined a gang. Willie couldn’t help it if his family was dependent on welfare or that the presence of a well-dressed white man in his San Diego neighborhood meant one of two things — FBI or narcotics officer.

Read the full column, and see our 2011 post about James Franklin’s debut against his father’s alma mater, the University of Oklahoma.
James Franklin’s tough Saturday wasn’t nearly as bad as Tyler Wilson’s. The quarterback for the University of Arkansas left the game with a concussion after the first half, before his Razorbacks lost in overtime to the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Wilson grew up at the Northside Church of Christ in Greenwood, Ark.

  • Feedback
    In a year that I have vowed to watch little football and spend more time with family, I watched Missouri and Georgia. I am interested in how James franklin does because he is a brother in Christ! We need to focus on the good stories in the church and encourage our young leaders and give less glory to those living the worldly life.
    I will also state that God fearing men like Mark Richt, the Georgia coach are appreciated!
    Give me the good stories. It is good for the soul.
    jim miller
    September, 12 2012
    I have known brother Willie for about 18 years. He is a brother in Christ, a fellow worker in the Lord. To know the man, is to love him. He had led our family out of false religion into the light of the glorious gospel. Although there are the accolades from the field of sports, there is nothing more precious than to know him for what he has accomplished in the vineyard of the Lord! He is not a perfect man, there is only one, but He has risen above the hatred and strife that can drive so many a man to a dismal end. To many that know him, he is a beacon of light in a lost and dying world. That is because he knows his Lord! He has and continues to fight the good fight of faith reaching many a soul along the way. My brother Joe worked along side Willie in the mission field and together they made an admirable team! Joe after having met Willie would never be the same. Willie taught my brother about the Christ and His purpose for man, Joe came home to Levittown, PA a changed man. That in turn would affect our family for good! Almost all, save one, were converted to Christ. We love him and thank the good Lord for him!
    Russell DiGiorgio
    September, 13 2012
    We happened to visit a Denton, Texas church where Willie was filling the pulpit as a guest for one Sunday several years ago. Wow! We did not mind at all that he kept going for nearly an hour! A few years later we were blessed to participate in a small Sunday evening group that met to sing. It was at a very small church not far from us. Willie always brought along a few college kids that he was discipling and mentoring. What great times those were! If you happen to be reading – Hi Uncle Chocolate!
    Linda Francis
    September, 13 2012
    I only met Willie once to shake hands but I came to know him well through many conversations with Joe and Dianne DiGorgio. We were friends with them before and after Papua New Guinea. Joe said he would spend his life trying to imitate Willie’s love for the Lord and did a mighty job before he left this world.
    Chuck Reed from Wyoming where Joe went to college and after that time with Willie in the mission field came to work as a campus minister.
    Chuck Reed
    September, 13 2012

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