Growing up in Toronto, Canada, Orlando Franklin found himself running with the wrong crowd. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Franklin moved to Canada with his mother and older brother when he was 3-years-old. Following his mother’s divorce, the family spent time in a homeless shelter and a group home where Orlando found himself in trouble both in school and with the law.
After he spent a couple of months behind bars, his mother moved the family to Delray Beach, Fla., where football became Franklin’s sanctuary. Playing just one year of high school football, he received more than 70 scholarship offers before selecting the University of Miami, where he became the first freshman in school history to start every game and finished his career twice earning All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors. Franklin recently answered a few questions from MP reporter Art Garcia Jr.
AG: You were a high commodity on the free agent market. Why did you sign with San Diego?
OF: At the end of the day, San Diego has a similar system to what I ran in Denver and I got familiarity with a guy like Mike McCoy as a head coach. He just really assured me that the offense is going to be very similar to what we ran in Denver. You have a guy like 17 (Philip Rivers) back there who, in my eyes, is definitely one of the top five quarterbacks in this league, and he’s been doing it at a high level for a long period of time.
We played him twice a year with Denver, and the thing you notice is that he slings that ball up and down the field and I wanted to come to a team that was going to compete right away and I felt like San Diego had all the right pieces to do that. And let’s be honest — in November I’ll be wearing flip-flops, in December I’ll be wearing flip-flops and in January I’ll be wearing flip-flops also.
AG: Speaking of Rivers, have you ever had a quarterback who talks and taunts opposing players during a game as much as he does?
OF: Peyton (Manning) would get after it every once-in-awhile and (Tim) Tebow was a competitor also. During my rookie year, Tebow would get after it as well. When I first had the offensive line over they told me how Phil gets after it during the games because you don’t really see it during the preseason, so I was excited about it (getting to see Rivers first-hand).
AG: You started at right tackle during your first three years in the league before becoming a starter at left guard last year. How hard of a transition was that for you?
OF: It’s just a different game. When you’re playing guard it feels like you’re playing inside a phone booth, and I feel like there’s a lot more happening when you’re outside at tackle. It’s a lot faster game and basically nine times out of 10 you’re going to be lined up against a defensive end.
AG: How long did it take you to get comfortable playing a different position on the other side of the line, because you only gave up one sack last year?
OF: Well I played left guard for two and a half years in college, so it wasn’t too hard moving back inside, but it’s definitely … the terminology is different so you have to get that down especially after playing tackle that long where you just know the calls between you and the tight end and stuff like that. In Denver, it was a complex offense and you had to know what everyone else is doing out there and we used to get tested by our offensive line coach, so it wasn’t that hard to make that transition.
AG: What about D.J. (Fluker), has he asked you for advice because he seems uncomfortable moving inside from tackle to right guard?
OF: Yeah, he’s a young player and it’s a little more mental on his side, but I told him once he gets it down he’s going to love it because at the end of the day the center or tackle tells you what to do basically every play and you’re always working with somebody. It’s very rare that you’re soloed-up when you’re playing guard.
AG: You have been in the playoffs and played in a Super Bowl since being drafted by the Broncos in 2011. How close do you feel this Chargers team is to being consistent playoff contenders?
OF: I think this team has always been close. When I was in Denver this was the hardest team we played every year in our division, and I was excited to have the opportunity to come here once the free agency period opened.
AG: You had a troubled childhood and were actually incarcerated as a teenager, but you turned your life around by earning a college scholarship and being drafted into the NFL. What would you say to kids out there who are having the same kind of struggles you experienced?
OF: Basically, you can be anything you want to be and accomplish anything you want to do. It’s just how hard are you willing to work and how much you are willing to sacrifice.
The Endzone: Having missed the previous three games because of an ankle injury, he suffered in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings in week three. Franklin’s return to the starting lineup last Sunday against the Oakland Raiders was short-lived as he was carted off the field with a knee injury.
Entering the game ranked 29th in rushing offense (3.6 yard average), the hope was the return of both Franklin and left tackle King Dunlap would solidify an offensive line that, until the Green Bay game the previous week, had not played an entire game together this season. After missing just one game in four years playing with the Broncos, Franklin’s status is day-to-day after the results of the MRI tests revealed a slight MCL strain.