Franks Relishes Double Duty for Wakulla as Kicker, Quarterback
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer
None of what has transpired after the day that Feleipe Franks kicked a 50-yard field goal was supposed to happen.
All the Wakulla High School senior quarterback wanted to do three years ago was get his teammates out of practice early. He dared head coach Scott Klees to let him try a field goal.
A miss would mean a double dose of post-practice running drills. If he hit it; the team would end practice without having to run what they call “gasers.”
Franks proceeded to gather a handful of dirt to steady the ball near midfield. He took three steps back and let loose his right foot into the ball.
Boom! A field goal with more than three yards of clearance behind the upright.
That was enough for Klees to declare Franks, 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, his kicker. He has since taken over the starting quarterback job as well for the War Eagles.
“It showed me that as a freshman taking that kind of pressure it didn’t faze him one bit,” Klees said.
Franks has been getting a lot of national attention as one of the top college prospects in the nation to play college football next season. He’s committed to LSU and will graduate from Wakulla High School in December then enroll at LSU in January, after participating in the Army Bowl high school all-star game.
Kicking will be out of the question for Franks when he becomes a Tiger. But for another six weeks or so he will continue to be “Mr. Everything” for the War Eagles.
Given his proven accuracy as a passer and kicker, Franks obviously relishes doing double duty.
“If we are fortunate enough to get a touchdown or we are in field goal range I put my focus straight to kicking,” Franks said. “When I’m done with that, I focus right back on quarterbacking.”
Franks took his first shot at quarterbacking at age 5, playing in a Wakulla County pee-wee league. He never lost interest, although he played baseball and basketball by the time he reached middle school.
What Franks is doing now stems from those early years on the pee-wee field. Keith Gavin was his primary receiver back then and he is still Franks’ go-to guy now that both are seniors at Wakulla High.
“I trust Feleipe 100 percent,” said Gavin. “We have proven people wrong. He knows he can throw the ball to me because I’m going to go up and get it. He trusts me and I trust him.”
The tandem has had a hand in several close games that the War Eagles won in the last two seasons. Some have been magical — like last year’s match up at Navarre when Wakulla rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to win in the closing minutes.
Down by a field goal, Franks found Gavin on the receiving end of a busted play for the eventual winning touchdown.
“It was wild,” Gavin recalled. “The whole place went crazy.”
Such a scene has become common for Franks. He’s put the War Eagles in position to win several times with his play under center, moving the team into field goal position. Then he’d turnaround and kick a winning field goal.
He makes the transition from quarterback seem effortless.
“He is a winner and an athlete,” Klees said. “Mentally and physically he doesn’t have a problem doing it.
“Some kids might have a problem with the pressure, but he thrives on those situations. He likes being in the spotlight, having the pressure on him with the ball in his hands whether we win or lose it. Those kinds (of players) come along only once in awhile.”
Long before becoming a playmaker for the War Eagles, Franks had been working on his style of play.
He likes staying in the pocket, although he is being labeled as a dual threat quarterback that runs as well as he throws. He only scrambles out of the pocket out of necessity and taking advantage of the opportunities that his offensive line sets up for him, he said.
“I can’t do anything without my offensive line and the holes my line creates,” he said. “They do a great job so I could stay in the pocket, do my check-downs and go through my progressions.”
Every day in practice is an opportunity to get better, Franks said. During last week’s practice when the War Eagles had an off week before facing Rickards in a matchup of one-loss teams, Franks’ dedication was obvious.
He went through kicking drills by himself, seemingly zoned in on every try. When it was time to practice with the special teams unit, he was just as locked in.
The discipline that Franks shows didn’t start on the practice field, said special teams coach Aubrey Gavin, no relation to Wakulla’s receiver. Up until his older brother, Jordan, graduated and went on to UCF, he was Feleipe’s mentor.
Gavin attributed the Frankses’ success to what they learned from their parents.
“I’m a firm believer that it all starts at home,” Gavin said. “With great parenting, he comes here and he is able to listen to the coaches. I explain something to him; he listens and goes out and does it.”