August 26, 2010

Solid season a long time coming for Franklin

Kristen Odland
Calgary Herald

CALGARY — Arjei Franklin’s 2010 season has been a long time coming.

After five campaigns in the Canadian Football League, the 28-year-old Calgary Stampeders wide receiver is on pace for career highs in catches and receiving yards. But Franklin insists he’s not finished yet.

“I’ve always known the numbers I’ve put out in past years are not my full potential,” he said.

“I know I can put out a big season — and hopefully this is it.”

Heading into Friday’s road date against the B.C. Lions, Franklin sits fourth in team receiving stats with 24 catches for 214 yards. His best season saw him make 52 grabs for 620 yards with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2008.

Personal stats, however, aren’t his most pressing concern.

“To be honest, I’m not really worried about the numbers all that much,” said Franklin, the Blue Bombers’ 19th overall pick in 2006. “I’m more concerned about us winning. I could have a career-low and we win a Grey Cup and that’d be OK. I’m just trying to do the best I can — week in and week out.”

Franklin came to the 403-area code last September in a trade with Winnipeg, along with receiver Romby Bryant, for defensive lineman Odell Willis, receiver Titus Ryan and slotback Jabari Arthur.

He dressed for the Stamps’ final seven games of the season and recorded five grabs for 40 yards. Franklin’s only major of the season — and his first post-season touchdown — was during the West semifinal against Edmonton.

And after spending almost a year in a Stampeders’ jersey, Franklin is comfortable in Calgary.

“There is no comparison from last year to now,” said the five-foot-nine, 188-pound Toronto native. “I feel at home here, you know. When I step on the field alongside my fellow receivers, I feel like I belong there — like I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

“I just go out there and do my job.”

The University of Windsor product and quarterback Henry Burris take time to periodically work on route execution in practice. And they’re reaping the rewards. Franklin’s efforts were especially hard to miss before the bye week, when he nabbed his first regular season touchdown during the Stampeders’ 56-15 thrashing of the Edmonton Eskimos.

Franklin had a death grip on the 17-yard pass from Burris — even after he was absolutely drilled by Edmonton linebacker Mo Lloyd.

“Everyone says, ‘Oh it was a big hit,’ but it wasn’t a big hit to us,” Burris said. “Big hits dislodge balls. And Arjei’s a true professional, he’s a big-play receiver.”

Of course, fellow pass-catcher Ken-Yon Rambo felt Franklin’s pain.

“Oh man, I was the first one to see him,” Rambo said. “Took a knee after ’cause he was a little woozy. But it was a terrific catch and he held onto the ball after a big hit.

“I mean, that’s all you can ask of us receivers. We gotta make the catch and hold on tight.”

And while it made Rambo double over empathetically in pain, others were doubled over in hysterics.

“I started to laugh when I saw it on tape after,” said slotback Nik Lewis, with a grin. “Just seeing his eyes, his mouth open. It was pretty funny.”

But in all seriousness, the hit garnered Lewis’s respect.

“It shows a lot about who you are and your character,” he said. “It took him awhile to get up, but he got up and kept playing. Took another hit, too (when Rod Davis nailed Franklin early in the third) and got up and kept playing.

“It’s good to have guys like that.” And given the chance, Franklin

knows he has the confidence to make plays like that in the future.

“You know, that opportunity to make that play showed a lot of what I’m made of,” he said. “I’m a tough receiver and I’m willing to go in there and make the hard, big plays. And if I had to do it again, I would.

“That’s just the kind of player I am. I’m a pretty tough guy, that’s just how it is.”