For the first time since his senior year of high school, Missouri senior quarterback James Franklin’s shoulder isn’t killing him.
Franklin said his shoulder was never 100 percent during his first three years at Missouri, and while there’s still a little pain here and there when he throws it isn’t an annoyance, it doesn’t mess with his aura and it’s minuscule compared to what he felt in 2012. Doctors have also informed him that the pain he feels now will eventually disappear completely.
“I feel like just got a brand new pair of shoes with me,” Franklin said last week in a phone interview with ESPN.com. “It feels and looks sweet, and that’s how I’m feeling right now.”
Franklin said his shoulder felt fine during 7-on-7 work, but he really felt good after slinging the ball around when practice opened last week. It was a monster weight lifted off the, uh, shoulders, of someone who was a human bandage the past two years.
Franklin suffered around 10 nagging injuries -- which affected his ankles, ribs, fingers, hamstring and chest -- during his breakout sophomore season, but that pales in comparison to 2012.
Franklin was basically working with a noodle for a right arm after undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a sprained glenohumeral joint last spring and then dealing with an inflamed bursa sac for most of the fall. The two most important assets a quarterback has, Franklin said, are your brain and your throwing shoulder. For Franklin, his throwing shoulder, or “bread and butter,” was in shambles.
“If our bread and butter is stale and crusty and outdated, you get sick and then die,” Franklin said with a laugh.
Obviously, Franklin is alive and well, but with his shoulder completely out of whack, Franklin was a shell of his former, big-play self and his confidence took a major hit.
“It would hurt every time I would throw, but it wasn’t to the extent to where it would make it worse,” he said. “I knew that in the back of my head, but I still let it affect my decision making because I was starting to doubt myself and thinking, ‘OK, when is it going to hurt?’ ‘I need to take some off of this [throw],’ or maybe, ‘Oh, I can’t make that throw because it hurts too much.’”
Franklin only played in nine games last year, starting eight, and threw for just 1,562 yards and 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions, while rushing for 122 yards. He had the whole Cortisone refusal issue, had his toughness questioned and later suffered a knee injury and a concussion.
Last year was hell for Franklin, but he feels refreshed this spring, even if he still can’t get too comfortable with Corbin Berkstresser, who played in 10 games last year, and redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, who is drawing comparisons to former Mizzou standout Brad Smith, contending for his job.
Franklin understands that he’s in a fight, but he doesn’t feel any more pressure. His health has his confidence soaring and he’s motivated by the competition and a dismal fall. So far, Franklin is enjoying the competition because it’s making both parties better.
“It’s kind of like a two-for-one special at about $5 even, no tax included,” he joked. “I’m excited about that.”
He’s also excited about working with Mauk, who has the Mizzou fan base buzzing. The Parade All-American and two-time Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year, has become a program favorite and is really gunning for the No. 1 spot.
That’s fine, Franklin said, because it gives him the opportunity to teach the quarterback of the future and learn a thing or two.
But Franklin isn’t ready to tell the frosh that just yet.
“I may not necessarily tell him I’m learning from him, but I’m taking some things here and there,” he said.