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Johnathan Franklin learned to carry the ball, himself differently

The UCLA running back was more sure-handed as a senior and says that accepting Christ has changed his life. Franklin is a solid NFL prospect.

February 22, 2013|By Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
  • UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin beats the Stanford defense for a 51-yard touchdown.
UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin beats the Stanford defense for a 51-yard… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

INDIANAPOLIS — Determined to curtail the fumbling problem that plagued him earlier in his career, UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin carried a football with him everywhere he went before his senior season, taking it to dinner, the movies … even when he went to bed.

All the while, people on campus — teammates and others — would try to poke, jab and rip it from his grasp.

"Just random people would come up and try to hit my ball," Franklin said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. "I was like, 'Hey, bro, chill.' But it was a great experience."

And it worked. Franklin was more sure-handed as a senior last season while rushing for a career-high 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns, and establishing himself as a solid NFL prospect. He fumbled just once, after fumbling seven, six and five times in his previous three seasons.

Far more meaningful to Franklin than those football-toting encounters was the life-changing friendship he forged last year with a janitor at UCLA. The two had crossed paths several times at their bank on campus.

"I used to always see him pass by, and he knew me because I was a football player on campus," Franklin said. "He used to call me Frankie. So one day he asked for my number. I don't know why, but one day I gave it to him."

The two wound up meeting several times, each time talking about Christianity. Eventually, Franklin attended Bible study with the janitor, and the message hit home.

"The pastor was talking about the world, and how people look to other things to satisfy them — football, or money, girls or partying," Franklin said. "I accepted Christ that day and my life has been different ever since. The way I carry myself, the things I say, my thoughts … this whole season has reflected that."

Speed thrills

Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin has world-class speed and finished 10th in the long jump at the London Olympics. He figures he's got a good chance to break the combine's electronically timed record for the 40-yard dash, set in 2004 by Chris Johnson at 4.24 seconds.

"I want to run the fastest ever, that's my goal," said Goodwin, whose personal record in the 100 meters is 10.09.

Goodwin is clear about this: he's a football player first, a track athlete second. And that's not a photo finish.

"Track guys just have linear speed," he said. "I have proved I have more than linear speed. Track guys really are known to not be able to catch. I have good hands. I run routes. I get out of my breaks. I can run other routes than just running a nine. I'm tough. I have taken on hits. I have blocked. I have even got MVP for blocking in one game and I didn't even touch a ball that game.

"I don't think a track guy could go out there and get MVP for blocking."

Bad hair day

Colts Coach Chuck Pagano is back in full after stepping aside for most of last season when he was diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia. His hair is back, too, months after his last chemotherapy treatment.

This time around, though, his hair is a little coarser than he's used to — a small price to pay, but for him a noticeable one.

"The hair's coming back in," he said with a smile. "It's a little gnarly. I haven't found a gel yet that will quite calm it down. We're still looking for one. My wife's trying to help me out."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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