Updated: Sep 21, 2019
By: KASSIDY HILL
GatorBait Special Reporter
Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks lay on the field, lower body working to stay as still as possible, as his upper body heaved with tears and screams.
The Gators redshirt junior’s season was over and the fact was setting in quickly. As he was loaded onto a cart with a cast around his dislocated and broken ankle, he gave a fist pump and thumbs up to the crowd. His teammates weren’t ready to concede to the reality. Van Jefferson — along with Tyrie Cleveland and Freddie Swain— had knelt next to Franks, praying over the quarterback while trainers tended to his leg. He had to be pulled off the field; he didn’t want to leave Franks’ side.
The entire team and Kentucky Wildcats coach Mark Stoops all stepped out to give Feleipe their well wishes before the quarterback was transported to the training room.
Feleipe ended up sticking around and watching the game in the locker room with Megan Mullen, Dan’s wife, as the Gators reeled off a 19-0 fourth quarter comeback. Franks then gave a message to the team following the 29-21 win. He told them simply, we’re too good of a team to struggle the way we did at times against Kentucky and we’re too good of a team to let situations snowball. But, he added, he was proud of the way they fought back to win and wanted them to play every play like it was their last. That’s how he had played, rushing for a hard yard on 4th down, and therefore he had no regrets despite his season slamming to a halt.
It was a sentiment echoed by his coach and teammates. Feleipe Franks has been the first quarterback since Tim Tebow that has boldly taken leadership of a Gators team, earning respect from every person in the locker room. While Kyle Trask has earned tremendous respect for his loyalty and work ethic as well, the Gators are going to miss and be playing for their emotional leader in Franks.
With that in mind, we cede the floor to Franks’ team. Their words tell the story better than any sentence we could construct. This is their appreciation for Feleipe Franks.
HEAD COACH DAN MULLEN
“Told him I love him and that we are there for him. I told him that it will be alright. I think — [guys going to the cart] it shows what he means to the team. What the team thinks of him as a leader, that’s the type of guy he is. How hard he has worked. It shows a lot about him and it shows the respect that the team has for his leadership and the love that they have for him. It’s a pretty close team.”
LINEBACKER JON GREENARD
“How he went out, him trying to get that first down, and I respected that so much more. I respected him so much more because he's laying it all out there on the line for us. Just to see him go down like that, in that fashion, we had to go out and put everything we had into that game to come out victorious and make him happy. He's still in high hopes. He understands what's going on. We’re going to continue to play.
“Anytime you see a teammate go down, it’s sad. But realizing how he put all his everything into the game, it made us want to go out and play a lot more harder for him. It’s tough and it was sad, the way he went out. But we know he’s gonna bounce back better than ever. Guys are gonna continue to keep him covered and keep his family covered, we’re always gonna keep him in prayer. But anytime you see something like that, that’s always hard. But it just fueled us more to continue to play and finish out the game for him.
“My words to him were ‘just keep your head up, always.’ Even when he was getting carted off, ‘just keep your head up. I know it’s hurting right now. It’s going to hurt mentally and physically, but you’re going to be fine. God is going to continue to bless you. You and your family are covered.’ Now he just has to get in his mind right now that it’s going to be really tough to understand it. It’s not a deny, it’s just a delay. With him, being in that situation, it’s going to make him better mentally. Physically, he’s going to come back stronger than ever. Sad to see him go, but he understands it’s part of the game.”
QUARTERBACK KYLE TRASK
“I just let him know ‘I got your back.’ It’s a next-man up mentality. I just did what I had to do for the team … me and him have spoken a lot — a lot — in the past few days. He’s been really supportive. I’m sure he’s going to be there with everybody in the quarterback room and the whole preparation process. He’s been really supportive. It’s good to have a good friend like that around.”
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN BRETT HEGGIE
“Feleipe… me and him are close, real close, we’re best friends, roommates. I know what it’s like being in his shoes, you know, dealing with a season ending injury. That was tough to see for sure. He’s doing well right now. He’s just recovering and everything and trying to get the inflammation down and stuff. I’m just there for him because he was there for me when I was going through my stuff. Now it’s my job to be there for him.”
SAFETY SHAWN DAVIS
“I just knew we just had to keep fighting for him and win for him. That’s something he would’ve wanted us to do.”
TIGHT END LUCAS KRULL
“We pray for Feleipe. He's one of my best friends here so, you know, I see him every day. I do everything I can for him. Obviously, it's something you hate to see. It's devastating. But at the end of the day, we have to keep moving forward, next man up, and rally behind Kyle and Emory, and get ready to go every day.”
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN NICK BUCHANAN
“He plays every play like it’s his last, which is how you should play football. You never know which one will be your last. It’s not his last play of football, he’s going to play again eventually. He has to get better and rehab and all that stuff. That’s how he plays. We encourage that. Things happen and it’s just the nature of the game of football.
“Anytime you see a teammate go down like that, have to be carted off, it’s a bad deal. Especially when it’s your quarterback. Not only the quarterback but one of the leaders on the team, one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen. It’s a bad deal. You can’t linger on that, you have to rally around him and use it as motivation and not let him down because he’s still wanting to see us win.”
LINEBACKER DAVID REESE
On Feleipe Franks coming to the team meeting Monday morning:
“I wished he was getting treatment but it all helps. You know, that’s our leader of our team. A guy that really loves this game. He has a competitive spirit and I know he is going to help Trask have the best transition possible … I know he will be around. I know he would do anything for us to be ready, he will do everything he can, whatever he can. Get healthy, that’s the biggest thing, but I know that he will be around. He is a great guy and he loves the program, that’s not an issue with him.”
If you'd like to send Feleipe Franks a get well card, UAA asks you send it to: P.O. Box 14485 Gainesville, FL 32604 Address it to Football Administration and they'll get them to him.