FAYETTEVILLE — Many players around the nation opted out of the season or bowl games due to COVID or other reasons, but Feleipe Franks never considered that option.
He transferred to Arkansas in January and has helped lead the team to three wins in the SEC. They had won one SEC game the previous three seasons combined. Franks was asked why he chose to stay and finish the season?
“I think just speaking for me, I just, I feel like it’s just my duty,” Franks said. “Not necessarily my duty, but for me, I want to stay and I want to finish the season out. I want to finish what I started. I came here to compete for a season and that’s what I’m going to do. At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve gone to work week in and week out with these guys for 10 straight games, so why stop on the 11th?
“It’s just something for me, my pride and being able to go out there and I owe it to these guys, I owe it to Coach (Sam) Pittman, I owe it to all these guys that welcomed me into the program and helped me take care of my body when I first got here. Just being able to owe that to them and try to go out here and get a big-time win, it’s just a great opportunity, man. It means a lot to me as a person, as a player, just being part of this program. It’s bigger than me and I think the faster you can realize that the picture is bigger than you, the better off things will be. It’ll be a good opportunity.”
This season in nine games, Franks has completed 163 of 238 passes for 2,107 yards, 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. He rushed 105 times for 204 yards and a touchdown. The Mercari Texas Bowl on Dec. 31 won’t be the last bowl game Franks. He has been selected to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl on Jan. 30 in Mobile, Ala.
Franks missed the Missouri game with a rib injury he suffered against LSU. It also bothered him in the Alabama game though he was able to start and then return when KJ Jefferson was injured. He is feeling better now.
“Yeah I think having this little bit of time off, I think it just gives everybody a chance to get their body’s back, have a little bit more time after like practices to get in the training room and get treatment and all that stuff,” Franks said. “Yeah, it’s been a good opportunity just to be able to take care of your body. Everybody’s taking advantage of that. It’s been good. Not just me.”
As previously noted, Arkansas hadn’t won an SEC game since 2017 and was coming off back-to-back 2-10 seasons before this year. Franks talked about the direction of the program now.
“I think that just hitting on getting things back on track, I think that was important for the program and just getting back on track and winning, getting back in the win column and being able to compete in every game you’re in,” Franks said. “I think we did that for the most part … a game here and there, we were in every game and were competing and we did a good job with that. So I think the program is turned around and definitely headed in the right direction with Coach Pittman and all of the staff and everybody did a great job of getting the program going in the right direction.
“My role, it just fell into place. Just being you. I think that’s everybody role, just being yourself. Being an encourager, being a leader. Things will fall into the right place. I think just the team has done a great job this year. With a 10-game SEC schedule, knowing that this could be a tough year turning things around, I think we did a great job embracing the challenge. Kind of looking at it as a challenge right in the eye and facing it. So we did a good job … it’s just headed in the right direction.”
Franks feels the Hogs have a good opportunity to finish the season on a good note against TCU.
“But at the end of the day I just approach it as another game,” Franks said. “I don’t think that for one second the mindset or the strategy or the routine has changed at any point this year. So just keeping that on track on a day to day basis is the most important thing. But it’s going to be fun to go out with a bang.
“We have a great opportunity to play a really good team in TCU in a great bowl. So it’ll be fun for all these guys. They’re excited to have another opportunity in this last game. A lot of teams don’t get the opportunity to play at this point in the season, so just another opportunity and being able to take advantage of it, not only in the actual game but then all the practices leading up to it are just as important, and I think everybody including myself will try to take advantage of it. So it’ll be fun.”
Franks has watched film of TCU and knows what to expect in next Thurssday’s game.
“I think they’re good,” Franks said. “I think they’re good year in and year out. With the head coach being a defensive-minded guy, I think they do a great job just making plays. There’s always somebody around the ball making plays and I think their guys up front are active. They have good players. It’s a Power Five school. They’re a really good team on defense. We’re preparing and we’ll need to be prepared on [Thursday] when the game comes. I think they’re a really good team. I think they’re good on the back end. Up front they’re very active. But it’ll be a challenge for us. We like challenges. Every game this season has been a challenge for us and we go out there and answer to the bell.”
The game will kickoff at 8 p.m. and televised on ESPN.