Hello again, Feleipe Franks.
It’s been about fourteen months since your Gator career ended in a particularly gruesome fashion. Tomorrow, we meet again. Only this time, your job will be to ruin Florida’s season, not enhance it, and our job will be to make you miserable, not comfortable.
Of course, both you and Florida have moved on since then, and the truth of the matter is that both parties seem to be better off for it. Florida found a bona fide Heisman candidate in Kyle Trask, and Arkansas has already found three more SEC wins with you at the controls there then they managed to get in the last two years combined. So, we’ve got ourselves a legitimate “and they all lived happily ever after” ending to your story in Gainesville.
Except, no: because the SEC scheduled a reunion between you and your former teammates, in the Swamp no less, and now, for one day, we have to turn on you. So your Swamp legacy isn’t over quite yet, and if the 6th ranked team in the country has anything to say about it, it’s going to end with one last bad memory for you after a career that had a few of them, including FSU in 2017 and Missouri in 2018… and that’s all I’ll say about that.
But there’s something you should know. For as frustrated as I and many other Gator fans may have been with your play on the field in those moments and others like them, with me- and any other decent Gator fan- it was never personal. Because of course it wasn’t. And it won’t be tomorrow when I root for you to throw five interceptions, either. Football is a game that we all use as an escape from the burdens and struggles of the real world the other six days of the week, and anybody who holds legitimate personal grudges over someone’s performance in an athletic competition needs to re-evaluate their priorities.
I know this may not be easy for you to understand. You did, after all, tell the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium crowd to shut up after scoring a touchdown against South Carolina in 2018 after they booed you. And you did go on a blocking spree on twitter after the ugly 2017 loss to Missouri, which by the way I was a part of. Thing is, though, boos from the stands and 280-characters-or-less posts on twitter don’t really have nuance.They can’t. So while a fan booing in the stadium may be his or her way of expressing the sentiment of, “Why the hell did I spend time and money to travel to this game?” or a fan tweeting “Alright, we’ve gotta bench Feleipe already” may be his or her way of saying “The program as a whole- or more personally, the other 80+ guys on scholarship deserve a chance to see what this other guy can do”. So from your perspective, I can understand why you think Florida fans are glad to be rid of you. All you heard were those boos. All you saw were those tweets. You didn’t get the chance to find out what fans really think of you.
Which is why I’m writing this. Oh, you won’t read this today, you definitely won’t read it tomorrow, and you likely won’t read it this season. But I do hope that one day, you do read this, and learn the full context of what Gator fans really think of you.
And what do I really think of you? Well, a few things.
Firstly… I mean, the nice way to put this is that the tape is the tape. I never attacked you personally, but I also have no regrets for tweeting things like “Yikes. Terrible decision by Franks there to force that one into triple coverage” or “Man… Franks had a wide open receiver and he just one-hopped it. You simply have to make that throw if you want to be a winner.” Because it’s my job to report on what I see and how I see it. You can’t take a bad play and try to convince your readers that it belongs on SportsCenter. That’s not how it works. And I’m sure that in a way, you knew that already, having gone through more film sessions than 99.9% of Earth’s population. When you throw a pick or miss a wide open receiver, Dan Mullen and now Sam Pittman let you know about. It doesn’t mean they have a personal vendetta against you, it’s just the way things are. And no, I’m not trying to equate myself to either of those guys in terms of my credentials to criticize you, but the point is that you can now understand that not every negative word everybody has to say about you is personal. In fact, I’d wager that most aren’t.
And, oh no, by no means am I saying that the entirety of your tape at Florida was bad. Because it wasn’t. The objective way to summarize your performance at Florida was a grab bag, a melting pot, a game of spin the wheel, a box of chocolates. We never knew what we were going to get. You made some of the most impressive individual throws I’ve ever seen a Gator quarterback make, and, well, you would do some things that spurred on those boosters and couch tweeters to come after you.
But honestly, I’m not going to specifically remember you for either all the good or all the bad. I’m not even going to remember you as inconsistent. Because I’m not going to remember you for your tape.
No, I’m going to remember you as someone who loved the Florida football program and did everything in his power to make it the best it could be. And contrary to what you as an individual reader may think of that epitaph, let me assure you, that’s not a cop out on my end. It’s not me giving him a participation trophy, or just not having anything better to say. In this same post that I’m intending for Feleipe to one day read, I included direct references to some of his lowest points as a Gator and declared that I stand by my criticism of them in those moments. Why? Because I have built the In All Kinds Of Weather brand on the promise to always love and support the Gators, but not being afraid to elucidate exactly how I feel or think. So when I say that I’m going to remember Feleipe Franks as someone who loved the Florida program and did everything in his power to make it the best it could be, I mean it in the most literal sense.
The least of what makes me say this, Feleipe, were your strides between 2017 and 2018. A freshman year in 2017 that had more bad moments than good had a lot of Gator fans ready to wash their hands of you, but you rebounded and mostly flipped those in 2018. It was obvious that you put a lot of time and effort into that pre-2018 offseason, to learn a whole new offense and then make both your stats and game film look better.
Of course, the good moments and me saying I’ll remember you for making Florida the best you could make it are kind of intertwined. Though there were definitely some bad moments in 2018, you more than overwrote them with the good plays you made— and those good moments are what allow me to draw that conclusion.
For starters, you quarterbacked your college to a win over Joe Burrow— something that only you, Tua Tagovailoa and Kellen Mond can say. You ended a half decade of misery against FSU in style with a 41-14 conquering of the Seminoles in Tallahassee. You exorcised our Michigan demons with a nearly identical 41-15 beatdown in the Peach Bowl. And you somehow rallied Florida back from a three score deficit to win not once but twice that year, first against Vanderbilt and then against South Carolina. So yeah, I’ll remember all that.
Then there was the fact that you were responsible for 50% of one of the most amazing plays in recent Gator history— a ball that you threw 70 yards through the air with pinpoint accuracy to Tyrie Cleveland to walk it off against Tennessee in 2017. It goes without saying that this play was unforgettable, but in the euphoria of the win, it may be easy to forget (or not even know) that you immediately ran down the field to join the dogpile before doing a victory lap around the field… that took forever, because you kept pausing every few feet to either do a full fledged Swamp version of a Lambeau Leap into the crowd or simply climb atop the wall to throw your arms up and fire up each section of fans— including Section F, where I was sitting that day. I’ll remember that, too.
And then there was the 2018 South Carolina game, when you shushed the crowd— which different fans of different personalities and opinions will remember for different reasons or in different ways. I’ll be honest; I didn’t love it at the time, but as that day fades farther and farther away in the rear view mirror, I’ve come to appreciate it a bit more. It seems as though every day, someone hits the NCAA transfer portal, and while there are certainly legitimate reasons for it and some players do transfer for legitimate reasons, there are also a lot of players who transfer because, in some form or another, they’ve given up on making it work for them at that school when the going gets tough. You could’ve transferred after the 2018 season; say what you will about the lack of glaring reason to do so, but you certainly wouldn’t have been the first to do so at least in part because he didn’t like the fan base. In fact, you wouldn’t have even been the first SEC East quarterback to do so that year. Instead, when the going got tough for you that day two Novembers ago, you did the opposite— you chose to fight back, let your emotions show, and double down on your commitment to leading the Gator football team. I’ll definitely remember that.
But while that legacy you have of doing everything you could for the Florida Gators is certainly built off of some of what you did when you were making plays on the field, you sealed that opinion with what you did when you weren’t.
September 21, 2019. You had just suffered that awful injury the week before at Kentucky, and getting around was still clearly not easy for you. Yet there you were the next week, in the hours before the Tennessee game— and subsequent games— warming up quarterbacks Kyle Trask and Emory Jones and even coaching them up a bit. Given the roller coaster of a week you had just gone through, not to mention your obvious physical disability, it would have been totally understandable if you’d wanted to stay away from a frenzied stadium packed with 90,000 energetic people running every which way. But I don’t believe that thought even occurred to you. You’d spent too much time giving your blood, sweat and tears to the program to not see the rest of that year through. And that, above all else, is what I’ll remember about you.
I’m glad I’m finally getting all this out there, Feleipe. I actually met you last year at the Auburn game. Right after the Gator walk, you were slowly making your way to the stadium. I recognized you, caught up to you and said “Hey Feleipe, I don’t know what the future holds, but regardless I just wanted to say thank you for everything. And I don’t mean on the field, I mean off it, too. Get well.” We were both in a rush; I had to run back to my car to drop some stuff off that wasn’t allowed in the stadium and you had a long ways to go still to join your teammates in the locker room. So I didn’t get a chance to elaborate on all the data I had built up to reach that conclusion, or explain that that wasn’t just a token line I was giving you because I felt sorry for you due to your injury but didn’t feel you were worthy of being thanked for your on field accomplishments. It’s my hope that someday, whenever you do read this, you will retroactively understand what I meant that day underneath that tree at the corner of University and Gale Lemerand. But more importantly, it’s my hope that you will understand that despite the boos and the heat on social media, this is generally how Florida fans will remember you, too.
So, good luck tomorrow, Feleipe. I can’t say I’m rooting for you to play well. We have to give you the same treatment as Bo Nix or Joe Burrow, as you’re the literal enemy in this game.
But what I can say is that after tomorrow, I’m rooting for you both on and off the field for the rest of time, so long as you are never again tasked with causing the Florida Gators to lose a football game. Because with all that you poured into this program— you’ve earned that.
And it’s because of all that you poured into this program, from everything from touchdowns to feeding Trask and Jones snaps in warmups on one leg and everything in between, that I will remember you.