James Franklin in Players' Tribune: Penn State headed 'right to the top'

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (TNS)

"This is a proud program."

That was a big part of James Franklin's message in an article he wrote for the The Players' Tribune.

It many way, it served as a pep talk for Penn State fans: The Nittany Lions are back in the limelight — and for good reasons, this time.

Penn State's Saquon Barkley celebrates with head coach James Franklin after the Nittany Lions defeated Minnesota in overtime last season. Franklin believes the Lions' program is headed "right to the top."

Franklin's column, published Thursday, Aug. 31, touches on the issues surrounding Penn State and the child sex abuse scandal — without mentioning the words scandal, Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno or anything else related to them.

"(This program is) supported by some really good people," Franklin writes. "And it has a fan base that's been through a lot. It was a place that had been talked about for all the wrong reasons for a long time."

Franklin opens the column talking about last year's match-up against then-No. 2 Ohio State at Beaver Stadium, a game that was sealed in the Nittany Lions' favor when Grant Haley returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for a touchdown and a 24-21 Penn State lead. That was the final.

"It wasn't just that we went on to win that game and turn our season around, but it was also how we did it," Franklin writes. "A lot of things need to come together to block a kick and return it like that. You need to have timing, judgment and, most of all, trust."

Trust — which, again, harkens to the Sandusky sex scandal, which, again, is not mentioned by name in the column — is a word that had been disassociated with Penn State for some time.

STEVE HEISER COLUMN: Penn State fans would do well to remember words of Mark Twain

"When I arrived at Penn State, this was a program that was hurting for a lot of different reasons," Franklin wrote. "And as a result, there wasn't much trust within the locker room. That's not the case anymore."

Franklin goes into his personal history of not dreaming of the Penn State job and not even really thinking about coaching.

Penn State opens the season as the No. 6 team in the Associated Press preseason poll. The Nittany Lions face Akron this week.

"When I first arrived here, this was a program with tremendous pride and tradition in need of a spark," Franklin writes. "Today we still have that same pride and tradition, but the difference is that everyone knows exactly where we're headed. Right to the top."