Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Ranked as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback nationally in his class, James Franklin was an athlete any college program would crave.
Just a few years earlier, he was begging his high school coaches to even consider him for the position.
"I've wanted to be a quarterback ever since I was young," Franklin said. "When I moved to Texas in seventh grade, there was no weight limit on running backs, so that's where I started out. My freshman year I finally stopped asking to play quarterback, because they wouldn't let me."
After a brief stint on his freshman team, Franklin played almost every other position at Lake Dallas High until he became the starting quarterback as a junior. His limited experience at the position led to equally limited recruiting by big-name college programs.
"A lot of schools thought I lacked the experience and wanted me as an athlete player instead," he said. "Mizzou was one of the only schools that wanted me as a quarterback. I only took one official visit, and I knew right away that I liked it."
Mizzou liked him, too. Since his early arrival last year for spring ball, Franklin has quickly climbed the depth chart. In the spring, he was listed as the No. 4 quarterback. He started his freshman season as starter Blaine Gabbert's backup, an honor not lost on the ever-humble Franklin.
"I just worked hard and tried to do better on the things that I could work on, and the coaches were happy about that and slowly put me in situations and kept moving me up," Franklin said. "When they put me at No. 2 I was surprised, but they had confidence in me and must have seen something in me that I didn't."
That something was apparent in Franklin's collegiate debut. In the second half of the second game of the season against McNeese State, Franklin completed 6-of-8 passes for 25 yards and rushed four times for 28 yards and a touchdown.
While his athletic abilities are obvious, Franklin possesses qualities that endear him to his teammates and others he encounters. He is modest and polite to a fault, and when asked about his first collegiate touchdown he responds with a bashful smile and a surprising answer.
"I know I shouldn't hold on to the past," Franklin said, "but when I scored I still felt bad for fumbling [the ball] earlier in the game, so it wasn't as pleasing as I wanted it to be. It was good, though, to score and to hear my teammates telling me good job even after the fumble."
Those teammates are the same reason he would rather be known as a passing quarterback than a rushing one and is working on feeling comfortable in the pocket rather than when he scrambles.
"I would rather my screen pass to (wide receiver) Gahn McGaffie have been the touchdown than me running it in," he said. "It's always good to see your teammates around you do well, and once they do well, you feel better. You don't want to be selfish out there."
Franklin credits Gabbert with helping him maintain focus and learn the playbook.
"He's the starter, obviously, and he has the experience and can kind of tell me what to look for on certain plays," Franklin said. "He knows what will be open and what won't, what I should do and look for, and that really helps me when I go in. Once I see it, I remember what he's told me and it helps a lot."
Although he expects to remain the backup, Franklin has high hopes for the Tigers this season.
"We have to stay focused, but at the same time we want to have a good time," he said. "I think the biggest thing for us this season is just to stay focused and not worry about who our next opponent is, because it doesn't really matter if they're the No. 1 team in the nation or not even ranked, we've still got to go out there and do what needs to be done to get the win."