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Penn State's Franklin talks about leadership, Kline during York stop

PATRICK STROHECKER
YorkDispatch

Penn State head football coach James Franklin knows a thing or two about being a leader.

As the Nittany Lions' coach, he's in charge of one of the most recognizable college programs in the country, leading 125 players who he calls "sons." He tries to make sure that whatever they learn from him on the football field can translate to the real world after college.

"I think everything that we talk to our team about and our players about, it may be football, but it's really about life," he said. "The same things that are going to allow our guys to be successful on the football field or in the classroom are the same things that are going to allow them to be successful in life."

So, it comes as no surprise that leadership and business were the two focal points on Wednesday, when he visited York County as the keynote speaker at the 109th annual Manufacturers' Association event at Penn State York's Pullo Center.

Franklin treated the event like one of his meetings that he has on a daily basis with his team. It didn't follow the usual script that many in the audience were used to seeing and likely expecting.

But, Franklin isn't a typical public speaker. Everything he does and says is done with a team outlook. He had a powerpoint presentation, much as he does during sessions with his players, and rather than approaching it as a talk, he referred to it as a team meeting.

"I think there's a lot of carryover," he said. "I think being successful in big-time football is consistent with being successful in any other business."

Franklin, who's entering his second season as the head coach at Penn State, views these speaking engagements as more than just a chance for him to deliver messages to a professional crowd. It's a chance for him to interact with members of communities who have a strong allegiance to the school and the football team. And, if need be, it's a way for him to bring the State College campus to prospective students.

"To me," Franklin said, "the best part about this is I know there's some young people in this country that are really, really interested in Penn State and maybe they can't afford to come see Penn State, so we're going to take Penn State to them."

Wednesday's event was titled "Leading for Success," and as one of the most recognizable figures and leaders at Penn State, that's what Franklin did in his first season with the Nittany Lions.

He guided the program to a 7-6 record and a 31-30 overtime victory in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl over Boston College. It was the team's first postseason appearance in the three years after the NCAA levied severe sanctions on the football program following the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Franklin on Kline: Perhaps it was mere coincidence that Franklin spoke of leadership in York County, home of Ben Kline, a Dallastown High School graduate and linebacker on the PSU football team.

Kline, whose troubles with injuries during his time with the Lions are well-documented, is considered one of the team's biggest leaders off the field, despite playing in just six games over the past two seasons.

"He's just a great guy," Franklin said about Kline. "He's been, I think, one of our biggest leaders off the field with community service."

Kline, who's the president for PSU's Uplifting Athletes chapter, is coming off a torn Achilles tendon. Now a graduate student, 2015 will be his final year of eligibility, and he will compete with several other linebackers for playing time this fall. It also will be his last chance to end his Penn State career on a positive note.

"We'd love for him to have a tremendous role for us next year," Franklin said. "...But, I don't care what anybody says. He's had a very, very successful career and experience at Penn State. You'd love for him to be able to ride off on a white horse with a storybook ending on the football field, as well, and I know he's working hard to achieve that."

OTHER PSU NOTES

Maryland corner makes verbal commitment: Penn State landed a verbal commitment from Maryland cornerback Zechariah McPhearson.

McPhearson announced on his Twitter account that he had picked Penn State, posting a photo of himself with Franklin at a post-game gathering after the Blue-White Game on Saturday.

McPhearson became the sixth member of the Lions' 2016 recruiting class and the second defensive back, joining Michigan's Lavert Hill.

It's the second member of the McPhearson clan that the Lions have landed in the last few months. Zechariah's older brother Josh, a walk-on wide receiver, transferred into program this winter after playing two years at Nassau Community College. He played in Saturday's scrimmage.

At 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Zechariah McPhearson, a four-star recruit, according to the 247Sports Composite ranking, also had offers from Alabama, Clemson, Michigan State, Ohio State, Pitt and Wisconsin, among others.

Zettel named to Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List: Penn State senior defensive tackle Anthony Zettel has been named to the preseason watch list for the 12th annual Lott IMPACT Trophy, as announced by the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation. The Lott IMPACT Trophy honors the top defensive player in college football who makes the biggest impact for his team, both on and off the field.

After moving from defensive end to defensive tackle in 2014, Zettel enjoyed his most productive season on the field. A fourth-team All-America selection by Athlon Sports and an All-Big Ten first-team pick by both the coaches and media, Zettel logged career-best totals with 17 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks. His 16.0 career sacks ties him for No. 15 in Penn State history, and his 27.0 career TFLs are just five shy of entering the top 15 in the PSU record books.

Off the field, Zettel is among a group that helped the football team complete a program record of more than 1,900 total hours of community service during the summer and fall of 2014.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com