Fayette County's Franks eager for game with Tide
Sat. September 08, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | By Barry Allen
Western Kentucky’s linebacker Chuck Franks, a former Fayette County player, will play against Alabama today at Bryant-Denny Stadium. (Photo by Western Kentucky)
It’s roughly 45 miles from the Fayette County High School campus to Bryant-Denny Stadium, but Chuck Franks’ journey has been much longer.
A 2008 graduate of Fayette County, Franks is now a linebacker on the Western Kentucky football team. Franks will finally get to play a game on the University of Alabama campus today, when the Hilltoppers will play top-ranked Alabama in the biggest game of his football career. The game will be televised on the SEC Network (WTTO) with kickoff set for 2:39 p.m.
"For me, it has always been a dream of mine to play at Bryant-Denny Stadium," Franks said. "This will be a big-time game for us. This will be a chance for our football team to get some national identity. We always talk about making people know who we are. I think it will be a good chance for us to go down there and prove ourselves and see how we rank against the No. 1 team.
"This will be my first time playing in this stadium. I have been to camp there during high school, but I’ve never actually played a football game there."
Franks said he saw three games in Tuscaloosa during the 2008 season. He saw Alabama play Kentucky, Western Kentucky and Auburn. It was the Western Kentucky game that caught his eye.
"It did influence me," he said. "Seeing that game, I could just tell what the WKU program stood for. I liked everything I saw and what the program stood for. I could tell those guys were having fun running around and just playing football."
An All-State performer at Fayette County, Franks was recruited by and eventually signed with the Hilltoppers.
"(Then-Fayette County) coach Waldon Tucker did a lot for me coming out of high school," Franks said. "He knew some guys at Western Kentucky and he sent some film up there, and they liked what they saw and they started recruiting me. They expressed a lot of interest in me. It has been a great environment for me."
Franks played in all 12 games as a true freshman in 2009 and recorded 18 tackles. He has a season-high seven tackles in a win over Louisiana-Monroe then started the final two games against Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State.
The next offseason was a tough one for Franks. The Hilltoppers replaced coach David Elson with Willie Taggart, and Franks suffered a season-ending knee injury in preseason camp, tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees.
"From the coaching change standpoint, it was not a big deal for me. Coach Taggart is one of the best players to play for Western Kentucky. He came and everybody bought into the program and where he was trying to take the program."
The injury was a different story.
"I would not wish an ACL on my worst enemy," Franks said. "The rehab was tough. It was a grind every day. I had to wake up every morning and tell myself, ‘This is what I want. I want to be a Division I football player. I want to play on Saturday. I want people to know my name and I want to be a part of something great.’ That got me through the rehab."
As a result of the surgery, Franks put on some weight, lost a few steps and played mainly on special teams in 2011. This year he is back in the rotation at the SAM linebacker position and is ready to contribute to the team.
"I think I am more technically sound," he said. "I think I am capable of playing with my hands more and reading my keys and identify the plays. The thing that has helped me a lot is getting in there and watching and studying film."
Franks said he’ll have some 30-40 people in the stands today when he finally makes his Bryant-Denny debut, and he expects a lot of emotion.
"When I run out on Saturday and see the fans and the environment, and I have about 30 or 40 people coming to see me play on Saturday, it will be emotional for me to go back home and play," he said. "I have not played in the state of Alabama since 2008. That will be real exciting for me."
Franks is on track to graduate in December and will enroll in graduate school in January for his final season at Western Kentucky. He credits a lot of his success to what he learned from Tucker at Fayette County.
"Coach Tucker never let me settle for being mediocre," Franks said. "He always pushed me to be the best that I could be. He always told me how important my grades were, and he really showed me lot. The wisdom he instilled in me helped me become a great student athlete and graduate in 3½ years."
And the journey was definitely worth it.