James Franklin gets tongue-in-cheek ultimatum from wife: Win or 'me and the kids are gone'
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Penn State has even more incentive to beat Washington in Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl. It comes from Fumi Franklin, the head coach’s wife — and diehard Washington State football fan.
“When we found out we were playing Washington in this game, she made it very clear to me: ‘Win this game or me and the kids are gone,’” James Franklin said Thursday.
Fumi Franklin’s love of Washington State football has provided an undercurrent of (mostly) jovial banter for the Penn State and Washington coaching staffs this week. Franklin met Fumi in passing in 1998, when she was a student at Washington State and he was a graduate assistant coaching tight ends and pursing a master’s degree in educational leadership.
A few years later, a mutual friend re-introduced the two when Franklin was coaching at Maryland. They began a long-distance relationship that led to an engagement in Green Bay, where Franklin worked in 2005.
At Washington State, Fumi Franklin developed a fierce devotion to Cougars football, even sleeping outside the stadium on game days to get front-row seats. The Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State is dear to her, which she told Washington coach Chris Petersen at a bowl dinner this week.
“My wife is a die-hard Cougar,” Franklin said. “She said, ‘You know I’m not really happy,’ and [Petersen] goes ‘Why?’” Franklin said. “She’s like, because I’ve gotten to know your staff and I really like them, and I don’t want to like them because you guys are Huskies and we’re Cougars.”
‘I’d love to play defense’: Quarterback Tommy Stevens received his own position name after the season. Franklin and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne came up with the term “Lion” to designate what Stevens in his package of plays outside of quarterback.
“I thought it was a cool idea,” Stevens said.
Franklin said he gave Stevens the title because he wanted to treat the No. 2 quarterback like a starter. From the formation, in which he lined in the backfield in a two-back set, Stevens has caught and rushed for touchdowns this season. He and Saquon Barkley are the team’s two players who have rushing, passing and receiving touchdowns this season.
“I thought it made sense to list him on here as a starter because that's how we view him and that's how his teammates view him,” Franklin said. “We expect his role to continue to grow, and literally, when I say offense, defense and special teams, I'm serious about that. There's really nothing off the table in terms of his opportunity to have a bigger role on our team.”
Stevens said he’s open to all of it. He played safety and linebacker at Decatur Central High in Indianapolis and received some Division I offers to play defense. In fact, Stevens’ father Tom thought his 6-4 son might play safety in college.
And Stevens said he’s open to it, even now.
“Growing up, my dad and my uncles had me playing all kinds of different positions,” Stevens said. “… If that’s what [Penn State] wants me to do, I’d love to play defense.”