Scott Porter: What would you tell people who will doubt you because of the level of competition that smaller school programs go up against? So many good players have come out of smaller schools in college football to have success in the NFL, yet there are still doubters.
Stephen Franklin: I have a lot to say to those people. My best games have come against Division one teams. The best games of my career came against teams like Northwestern, Illinois, Southern Illinois and Marshall. Knowing those teams are division one talented players make me more motivated to prove to everyone that I could be playing at that level. The level of competition is a lot less than people think. There are so many good players at this level that people over look coming out and end up doing big things. The competition level is not as big of a difference as everyone thinks it is. It just makes me play with that much more of a chip on my shoulder to prove to the world that I am a great player and can play on any level. I had an offer to Kansas State that fell through at the last minute. I have such a huge chip in my shoulder to prove to everyone that I will succeed and belong in the NFL. Nobody can take away my great mentality that I carry on my shoulder. I am always out to prove people wrong and it makes the reward that much sweeter. I will never get rid of that mentality that I play with. People see me from a smaller school and that is a huge motivator for me.
Scott Porter: What is the toughest challenge about playing the linebacker position?
Stephen Franklin: I think one of the toughest challenges about playing the linebacker position is being able to read and react to everything. You have to be able to help in both run and pass support and be ready for whatever it is. You have to do a ton of reading at this position and go with the flow. You have to think fast to be a good linebacker. You have to be able to simplify things for yourself otherwise the position can be very hard to play. You have to know your responsibility on every single play and be able to adjust to the play. You have to see everything and help DB’s in pass coverage and the DL in run support as well as blitz when called upon. You have a large role and a lot thrown at you. There is a lot of window dressing that comes with this position.
Scott Porter: What do you feel are your biggest strengths?
Stephen Franklin: I would have to say my speed and my athleticism.
Scott Porter: What do you feel will be the biggest adjustment you will have to make in the NFL?
Stephen Franklin: I think the biggest adjustment will be picking up the speed of the game and learning the new terminology. Once you pick up those two things the game slows down a lot, as a young player it takes some time to adjust. You have to put in the extra effort and time to adapt and learn the game. I am willing to put in as much time as possible to learn as quickly as I can to help a team. I feel like physical and mentally I am ready.
Scott Porter: What are you goals for the NFL?
Stephen Franklin: I just want to get my foot in the door and improve every day to become as good of a player as I can become. I want to prove to everyone that I can play on this level. I want to work hard and work with the coaching staff and just work my way up.
Scott Porter: What type of person is an NFL team getting in Stephen Franklin?
Stephen Franklin: They are getting a guy who comes to work hard every day and improve with hard work. I am not a complacent person. You will never have to worry about me off the field; I have always done the right things. I am a great team player and an overall good person.
Scott Porter: What NFL player reminds you of yourself?
Stephen Franklin: My coaching staff told me I remind them of Bart Scott. I take bits and pieces from different players, but Bart Scott is a player who is very similar to me they tell me. They say I remind them of him because I have a great motor and he makes plays all over the field.
Scott Porter: Who has been your biggest influence?
Stephen Franklin: Two guys that I would mention on this question. My teammates, Brandon Jordan and Chancey Mixon. They both played linebacker for Southern Illinois. Both of these guys were great players, they took me under their wing and I learned so much from them. Brandon really demonstrated to me what it takes to be a great player, the work he put into football among many other things. Chancey is one of the most athletic players I have ever seen. Brandon had a knack for the ball as he had great instincts. These two were both major influences to the success I had. I watched them and learned so much from them.
Scott Porter: What are your hobbies off the field?
Stephen Franklin: I like to hang out with my buddies. I play a lot of Call of Duty. My friends and I get together and have little Call of Duty video game parties, which can be a lot of fun. I like to shoot around, I play a lot of basketball as a matter of fact I had the option of playing football or basketball and decided on football.
Scott Porter: What advice would you have for young athletes in your situation? Kids who may not be highly recruited coming out of High School but have the ability to play at the next level?
Stephen Franklin: Keep pushing to get better every day and trust that if it’s God’s will, He will provide the chance to show off the gifts and abilities that He has given you.
Scott Porter: What will you be doing from now until draft time to prepare yourself for the NFL? Have you been invited to any Senior bowl All-Star games?
Stephen Franklin: I’ll be starting my pro-day training in Indianapolis and finishing up my training here in Carbondale, IL so that I can finish up my bachelor’s degree. I will be playing in the Eastham Energy College All-Star game in Tempe AZ, on Jan 23rd.
Scott Porter: When did you realize that your dreams of becoming an NFL player might come true?
Stephen Franklin: It was after the Jr pro-day last spring. I wasn’t sure that I was even going to be invited. I ran well in the 40, the scouts came and spoke with me and that’s when I realized that this could be more than a dream.
Scott Porter: What are the most important things that you learned from your coaching staff at Southern Illinois that you can take with you to the NFL that makes you a better player than when you started your college career?
Stephen Franklin: The most important thing that I’ve picked up here at SIU is the hard working mentality. I’ve learned that I can’t just go through the motions. I have to focus on trying improve on something every day on and off the field.