DOWNEY – In society today we see how torn the world we live in is. So much rivalry, so much jealousy, so much pride. It is always refreshing when you come across an athlete who doesn’t just say all the right things, but rather you see a leader walking through the crowds and leading by example.
Humbled by his beginnings and praised for his talents, make no mistake that this athlete has every right to brag. But instead he prays and pays it forward.
It is no secret that Head Coach Jack William’s football program at Downey High School has always been strong, with a pool of talented players walking the halls. The same halls that USC outside linebacker Jabari Ruffin once roamed are also home to another extremely talented player. With 24 offers from D1 schools such as Oregon, Cal Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, and Arizona, just to name a few, this athlete could go to any school not just his football talents, but also for his strong academics and charity work within the community.
Standing at 6 ft. 2 and 215 lbs., Vikings wide receiver and linebacker Darrian Franklin (#9) is a jack of many trades and skills, and he comes in full force on and off the field.
Football is not just a sport to Darrian, it is a family affair since he comes from a strong family lineage of football. His mother is the one who taught him how to throw a football and would help him run drills. His uncles and cousins all played football and helped coach him, offering tips to make him more effective in each play.
“I’m grateful to have such a strong family background. My uncles, Devin and Demel, text quotes before every game to inspire and pump up not just me, but also my teammates,” said Darrian. “They always give me tips to avoid injuries and to take care of my body.
“My father also played professional football and he gives me good advice because he understands what it’s like on the field and in the real world. It’s great to have my family stand by me and support me and want me to get the best education I can over playing professional football. It’s one less pressure knowing that win or lose they all stand by me.”
Darrian started playing football at the age of 5 with Bellflower youth. He has played on various football travel teams, attended football camps all over California, and has seized every opportunity to learn and build on his skills. His most memorable football moment was going up against Alex Redmond, who now plays for UCLA, who stands 6 ft. 5 and weighs 305 lbs. and was a senior linebacker when Darrian was just a freshman playing on varsity for Los Altos High school.
“Redmond would just straight pancake me at practices like nothing,” Darrian laughs. “I’ll admit it was good practice and helped me get ready for some of these players I go up against.”
Being an athlete is not just about playing a sport but about the passion and dedication to push forward. Darrian does not play football because he has to, but because he loves to. This is what separates him from other athletes. So what keeps this talented individual going?
“Gospel music or something calming like BB King ‘Stand By Me’, and I always get a text from my uncle T-Man from Texas who sends me a prayer for love and protection. Then I look in the mirror and say ‘Am I going to do the best I can or am I going to better than I was yesterday?’”
“To me, being able to get a scholarship to one of the best schools in the country is the biggest way I can repay both my parents and all those who have stood by me and cheered me along the way,” Darrian continues. “It is the greatest accomplishment for me to know that my parents won’t have to worry about how to pay for my college tuition or worry about my education. My mom and dad have always expected my best both academically and in athleticism. I was never allowed any excuses, I was taught to be accountable, and to always hold myself to the highest integrity.”
Those who see him play football Friday nights see a talented player and legend in the making, but those close to Darrian, including former teammates from last season, all agree that he will be the one to inspire future youths to follow their dreams.
“I want you to be better than me, I’ve made some mistakes but from every situation there is always a positive in life,” Darrian says. “Through good times and bad times, I’ve always tried to be the best. If someone is working for you then you should appreciate that and work harder and stay focused. Don’t let the excuses or problems get the best of you and use it as a way to why you didn’t succeed. In those situations you need to pray because God doesn’t give you anything you cannot handle. If you put in the work, something good will happen.”
In his spare time, Darrian spends his time paying it forward by volunteering to feed the homeless and partnering with Downey High’s school program called SWAB.
“I am working on planning a surprise visit to a local Pop Warner team and share my story that anything is possible if you work hard for it. I not only want to inspire youth, but also a way to give thanks to all the great coaches out there. I’ve been very blessed to have great coaches who have helped me become the athlete I am today,” Darrian says.
“The coaching staff at Downey High school I can’t thank them enough because they are tough on us. They know how great we are and at the end of the day I can go to any of them and talk to them about anything and they always give the best advice. I especially want to give a special thanks to Coach Jack Williams because he has always been there for me; we may not always agree on everything but at the end of the day I trust him and he always has the players’ backs. He expects us all to be great, and he knows the difference between your great and your best. He is one of the most supportive coaches I’ve ever had. He doesn’t care about just winning he also cares about us after high school and wants to see great things from us.”
“I also want to thank my principal Mr. Houts at Downey because he looks out for the school and is dedicated to the sports program. He does a lot to make Downey High school to be one of the best schools out there. I look up to him as a role model.
“But this season, I have dedicated it to my mother because through thick and thin she has always been there for me. Seeing me play puts a smile on her face because I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old and I know it is bittersweet for her to see me all grown up and ready to go off to college soon. My Gammy is my backbone because she always gives me the best advice. She has always stressed the importance of family to me and is the one who unifies everyone together.”
As a writer, I meet with athletes and tell their stories. This is the first athlete that I have met who has remained the same individual regardless of all the attention he has received. We wish Darrian Franklin nothing but the best of luck in his future endeavors as he has committed to attend the University of Oregon.