Johnathan Franklin isn’t too familiar with Green Bay yet, but the new Packers running back is already thinking about his long-term future in the NFL’s smallest city.
Hoping to contribute more than just the playmaking ability that he’ll soon be displaying at Lambeau Field, Franklin’s wide-ranging interests have him planning for what to do after he calls it a career many years from now.
“Let’s start this campaign for ‘Mayor of Green Bay’ ASAP,” Franklin told FOXSportsWisconsin.com in a phone interview. “If I fall in love with Green Bay and learn about the history, that might be the city I want to live in for the rest of my life.”
This isn’t the first time Franklin has shown interest in public office, but prior to now he’s always had his sights set on being mayor of his hometown of Los Angeles.
“That’s definitely an inspiration I have after football,” Franklin said of becoming a mayor.
It was during Franklin’s time at UCLA that he was mentored by former Los Angeles councilman Martin Ludlow. Franklin was later given an internship where he attended city council meetings and followed around Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
“I grew up in a rough community,” Franklin said. “He (Ludlow) used to talk about his involvement in the community, used to talk about making changes that the community needs. He started talking to me about politics and I said it was really interesting.”
Though that experience was a very positive one for Franklin, it did expose a few negative aspects of local government. That’s what gave Franklin the idea to do something about it one day.
“One time I was in the Chamber of Commerce and the people in L.A. were coming up and talking about their problems in L.A.; but when I looked at the members of the Chamber of Commerce, it was going in one ear and out the other,” Franklin said. “So many voices unheard that need to be answered.
“That pushed me to want to become an active part of it. I want to make people know there’s nothing in this world that can’t be changed and can’t be done. That’s how I understand having the right people around you, that it’s not just about you. It’s about everyone.”
Green Bay and Los Angeles are quite different in many regards, as Franklin will soon come to realize as his Packers career begins. But, as now-retired wide receiver Donald Driver found out during his 14 years in Green Bay, players who embrace the community can become so wildly popular that being voted into office seems like an achievable goal.
Performance on the field is where Franklin’s attention turns for now, with football being how the 23-year-old hopes to spend at least the next decade of his life.
The Packers traded up in the fourth round to draft Franklin with the 125th overall pick. Even though Green Bay had drafted Alabama running Eddie Lacy 64 picks earlier, general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy didn’t want to miss out on adding Franklin as well.
“I’ve watched Ted Thompson enough times in the draft room that when he (trades) up, it’s going up for something really good and that was definitely the case,” McCarthy said after the draft about Franklin. “Very dynamic player, I’m excited to work with him. Just the little time I had to talk with him on the phone, I think he’s going to be an excellent fit for us.
“I don’t know how you cannot be excited about the film he has, and he can really catch the football and do things out of the backfield.”
Franklin and the people of Green Bay will likely get along quite well. Franklin considers himself a football junkie and he’s well aware that Packers fans are known for loving their football team.
“There’s so much going on in California that, yeah, some people love football, but they don’t care about it too much,” Franklin said. “People up (in Green Bay) seem to go crazy about football. I love football, so I just can’t wait.”
If Franklin can help turn around a Green Bay running game that finished 20th in the NFL in rushing yards and 22nd in yards per carry last season, Packers fans will certainly embrace the team’s ambitious new running back.
Before Franklin leads the people of Green Bay from his mayoral office, he wants to help lead the Packers to another Super Bowl victory.
“I want to go in there and work hard and contribute and get this team another ring,” Franklin said. “Everybody wants to be the best. I want to maximize what I can do to be the best I can be. I’m blessed to be in a great organization now.”