James Franklin was less than a week removed from accepting a new gig, a choice that completed a three-year boomerang from College Park to Middle America and back. His family tucked away in their room, Franklin made his way down to the lobby level of the Greenbelt Marriott.
The new offensive coordinator at Maryland sat quietly in the hotel bar, watching the Terrapins build an early lead before fading in the Emerald Bowl.
He heard the chatter of other patrons. On the players. On the coaches. On whatever a fan talks about when a 6-7 season is sealed and a third losing year out of four is clinched. The entire night, no one recognized Franklin.
He cannot expect a low profile any more.
Not after supporters gleefully queued up to greet him at Maryland’s spring game and welcome him back after a year with the Green Bay Packers and two more as Kansas State’s offensive coordinator. Not with an easily heard presence on the practice field and from the coaches’ box during scrimmages.
Not after already taking part in a quarterback decision that created angst among fans. And not as one of the few assistants that coach Ralph Friedgen would trust to bring in and run his own offense.
“He’s brought some enthusiasm and some freshness into the program,” Friedgen said. “I’ve been pleased to see his maturity and his growth.”
But in a lot of ways, he’s still the same James Franklin who spent five formative years at Maryland.
A dozen of Maryland’s scholarship seniors were on the roster in 2004, Franklin’s last season with the Terps. Franklin recruited several more - including wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey - before leaving for the NFL.
Franklin is usually one of the first assistant coaches on the practice field, a blase combination of a gray T-shirt and black shorts typically his attire. But if he doesn’t dress in a way that stands out, it usually isn’t long before he’s in the face of a lineman or demonstrating to a quarterback proper technique.
For those players who remember Franklin hounding them on the recruiting trail, it’s nothing new. A couple holdovers even have a name for it: mad energy.
“Mad energy is just nonstop persistence over any type of play, game, anything,” tackle Dane Randolph said. “I mean academics. He would check my report card at school. He would call the coach up and ask to get my report card and then ask me what my grades were to see if they were the same.”
From a locker over, guard Jaimie Thomas knowingly said, “That sounds about right.”
The pre-existing relationships were vital. Rather than needing time to build up credibility with veteran players, he inherited an offense with four starting linemen, a star wide receiver and three quarterbacks likely to play who were familiar with him.