The only time Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin touches a turkey is when he is carving into one on Thanksgiving.
Yes, he’s had some odd jobs. Working for the water and sewer authority during college ranks up there.
“You’d get a sewer break and you’d have to deal with it,” he said. “It wasn’t a whole lot of fun.”
But Franklin never has inseminated a turkey like his predecessor Robbie Caldwell once did for a living.
Caldwell’s colorful anecdote — and personality — stole the show at last year’s Southeastern Conference Media Days. A week after he was named the school’s interim head coach, Caldwell left the interview room in Hoover, Ala., to a standing ovation and immediate status as a media darling.
It is a tough act to follow for Franklin, who took over in December following a 2-10 season that prompted Caldwell's departure. But the 39-year-old first-year head coach says he won’t try to leave everyone in stitches at this year’s SEC Media Days when he takes the podium at 8:30 a.m. on Friday.
“Maybe I am putting less on emphasis on it than I should, but I think we have a lot of challenges to overcome. I think we have a lot of issues to work on,” Franklin said. “… I’m not really necessarily concerned about going down there and winning the Media Day. I want to win on Saturdays. That is where my focus is. My focus is on our football team.”
In more than seven months on the job, Franklin has done his fair share of politicking.
He has been visible well beyond the football field, showing up at Vanderbilt basketball and baseball games, residence halls and fraternity row. He has also worked his way into the community, including holding a public event after national signing day in February and playing in Jeff Fisher’s Celebrity Softball Game last month. His schedule includes a stop on Thursday to visit the Vanderbilt Birmingham Chapter.
He has worked the media, as well, with unannounced calls to local radio stations and several interviews with national publications.
“At Vanderbilt, you probably have to wear more hats as the head coach and embrace all those hats than probably any job in America,” he said.
Now, he says, he’ll trade in most of the caps for a hard helmet. Fall practices are just two weeks away.
“I am getting to the time of year where I am changing my focus and locking into really football-specific things,” Franklin said. “I like doing all these things but the reality is, the reason I like them, is because they are going to allow us to do things we need to do here that we need to be successful.”
During its media session, Vanderbilt will be paired with Alabama, which draws tons of newspapers and TV stations every year.
It will be a new experience for Franklin, who spent the last 15 years as an assistant and has never been to a conference’s preseason media day. He will be joined by Vanderbilt seniors Larry Smith, Casey Hayward and Chris Marve, who is making his second straight media-day performance.
“Being in Birmingham and being matched up with Nick Saban and Alabama, I can understand it is probably going to be a circus,” Franklin said. “I’m just going to be me. I am going to stay true to who I am. I am going to go down there and have fun with it.”