FAYETTEVILLE – Regardless how he fares in Arkansas’ Dec. 31 Texas Bowl game in Houston against TCU, Feleipe Franks ingrained himself all the deeper with Razorbacks fans just by playing in it.
The graduate transfer quarterback via the University of Florida losing his Gators starting job to a 2019 season-ending injury and the emergence of successor Kyle Trask into a Heisman Trophy contender, Franks enrolled at the University of Arkansas last January intent both on quarterbacking the Razorbacks and improving his 2021 NFL draft stock.
Given his season for the 3-7 in the SECHogs, SEC winless the last two years before his arrival, Franks has immensely improved his draft stock. He completed 163 of 238 for 2,017 yards with 17 touchdowns against only four interceptions and also proved himself when required to be a willing runner.
He also so proved to be a leader his new team quickly elected him an offensive co-captain.
The honor isn’t lost on Franks. As players around the country in this covid-19 era are opting out of bowl games to turn pro with some entire teams opting out of bowl bids, he continues practicing to play for Coach Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks against the Horned Frogs.
Why keep playing when others turning pro defer to the pre draft injury risk and sit out?
“Just speaking for me, I feel like it’s just my duty,” Franks said. “Not necessarily my duty, but for me, I want to stay and I want to finish the season out. I want to finish what I started. I came here to compete for a season and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Franks waxes proud of what this team has accomplished and believes he “owes” teammates quarterbacking their final 2020 step. “At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve gone to work week in and week out with these guys for 10 straight games, so why stop on the 11th?”Franks said. “It’s just something for me, my pride and being able to go out there and I owe it to these guys, I owe it to Coach Pittman, I owe it to all these guys that welcomed me into the program and helped me take care of my body when I first got here. Just being able to owe that to them and try to go out here and get a big-time win, it’s just a great opportunity, man.”
An opportunity bigger than himself.
“It means a lot to me as a person, as a player, just being part of this program,” Franks said. “It’s bigger than me and I think the faster you can realize that the picture is bigger than you, the better off things will be.”
Also, it seems Franks hasn’t entirely ruled out returning for an extra 2021 senior year that the NCAA has made available to all 2020 seniors because of this year’s covid circumstances.
“I’ll hit on two points of that,” Franks said. “I don’t think that by any means my goal was to test the NFL waters. But my goal is to go there and be productive and have a great career there. Me and Coach Pittman have talked about it multiple times. He knows and that’s one thing I love about him, he’s always been the type of person that it’s the best decision for you, best decision for me. We’ll have that conversation again at some point, but as of right now, it’s in the talking. We’ve been talking about it, but we’ll surely talk about it more when the time comes to make a decision.”
For now Franks concentrates on treatment healing the rib injury he played through in the season finale against Alabama that scratched him from the preceding game at Missouri, and dissecting TCU’s defense.
“I think they’re good,” Franks said. “I think they’re good year in and year out. With the head coach (Gary Patterson, the longtime TCU head coach and former defensive coordinator) being a defensive-minded guy. There’s always somebody around the ball making plays and I think their guys up front are active.”
In summation, Franks said, “It will be a challenge for us. We like challenges.”