Emmanuel Franklin Makes Comeback To Remember
Sept. 6, 2003
By Brian Gomez
The game was the same Saturday for Arizona State junior cornerbackEmmanuel Franklin, but it felt a lot sweeter.
Playing for the first time since suffering a subdural hematoma thatjeopardized his football career, Franklin looked sharp in his return to Sun DevilStadium on a night when his school-record 100-yard interception return wasmatched by junior cornerback R.J. Oliver.
For Franklin, Saturday's game marked both the beginning of a new seasonand the end of a tiresome journey in which his personal wherewithal was testedmore than ever before. It was an eventful voyage that heightened Franklin'sappreciation for a game he once perceived as routine.
'I came back hungrier than ever,' Franklin said. 'I just want to play ashard as I can for as long as I can because I don't know when my last rep isgoing to be.'
Franklin sustained a subdural hematoma during practice last spring whenhe took the brunt of a head-to-head hit with senior fullback Mike Karney. Hehad felt headaches before practice, but thought they were merely the result ofthe wear and tear of playing Division I football.
'That was the worst pain I had ever felt,' said Franklin, whosegrandfather died of a subdural hematoma when Franklin was a sophomore in high school.'I really thought I was going to die right then. I thought it was really mylast day on Earth.'
Franklin assumed the pain was going to reside, so he waited a week beforegoing to the hospital. That's when doctors diagnosed the injury, sayingFranklin had bleeding on his brain and would be forced to undergo skull surgery.Franklin had a dime-sized hole drilled into his head. The hole was laterfilled with acrylic material and titanium mesh during a second operation.
'All of my friends were calling me the bionic man,' Franklin said.
Franklin admitted feeling somewhat tentative when he returned to practicefor the first time last spring, but his fears quickly vanished when hedelivered a crushing blow during a special teams drill.
'Once I got the first hit on, I knew I was going to be all right and Iknew that it was going to be just fine,' Franklin said. 'Ever since then, I'vebeen playing with no abandon.'
Equipped with a helmet designed to reduce the chances of concussions,Franklin is competing this fall for the starting cornerback spot opposite Oliver.He might not be on the field for every play this season, but he's happy tojust be in uniform, especially after a minor headache turned into a matter oflife and death.
'I vowed that if I ever got to play football again, I would pull out allthe stops and I would play with all my heart,' Franklin said. 'I didn'tnecessarily take football for granted, but I love it that much more now and I'mgoing to take it that much more seriously because you don't know when your lastplay is going to be, when you're going to get your last chance to make a tackleor make a pass breakup or make an interception.'
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