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Where Are They Now: PK Tony Franklin
 
May 5, 2007 | Last Updated: 5/5/07 11:42 AM ET | Comments (0)
By: JIM GEHMAN

Before Tony Franklin was selected in 1979, the last kicker that the Eagles chose during the first four rounds of an NFL draft was Happy Feller in 1971.

Coincidentally, Philadelphia's coaches, players and fans could not help but have been happy about Franklin's first-year production. The third-round pick out of Texas A&M converted 23 of 31 field goal attempts, scoring 105 points, which was more than what the Eagle kickers totaled the previous two seasons combined.

Three of those points helped break a nine-game losing streak to the division rival Cowboys, when during a nationally televised Monday night game in Dallas, the rookie booted the then-second longest field goal in league history.

"I had missed a couple, I think, and this one came just before halftime," said Franklin. "I was asked if I thought I could make it and I said, 'Well, why the heck not? Let's give it a shot.' We had had a penalty and Dallas declined it instead of backing us up and making us replay it. So it ended up being a 59-yard attempt and fortunately that's as good as I hit a football when I was playing professionally. I mean, it was dead down the middle. I was very fortunate to make it. It was definitely a high point in my career."

Franklin's career definitely started off on the right foot. Well, actually, the right bare foot.

PK Tony Franklin
"I started (kicking barefooted) when I was 15 years old," Franklin said. "I tried one day with a shoe on and I could kick the ball 35 yards, but I wasn't very accurate. So I said, 'I wonder what would happen if I took my shoe off?' and I started kicking them 50 yards and was a lot more accurate.

"You have to understand, I grew up in Texas and we played football year-round. In the summertime it was so hot and because we always had a lot of grass and it was very lush, we just played barefooted. I just developed it from there. It was kind of just trial and error."

Thanks in part to his reliability, Franklin was accepted and cheered by the Eagles' fans, shoe or no shoe.

"If you're playing well, they're behind you. If you're not playing well, then they're your worst critics. And in a way, that is the way that it should be," said Franklin. "They were rabid football fans and were a trip. They had one guy at the end zone down by where the Phillies' visitors dugout used to be, who would sit there with his shoe off and through a signboard that said 'Tony's Toes.'

"They kind of take it to a different level. They're a lot more vocal, a lot more demonstrative than say the Cowboys' fans are. You know, the 'let me have two lumps of sugar with my cup of tea, please' fans in Dallas. I think that's one of the reasons why the players were very much endeared to the fans. Because in Philly, they had their corporate executives to the blue-collared guys all up there and they didn't give a damn what they did as far as each other, they were all united in one purpose. That was helping the Eagles beat whoever it was they were playing."

The Eagles and the Veterans Stadium faithful combined to beat nine opponents during the 1980 campaign, including a 20-7 win over Dallas in the NFC Championship Game.

"I think the key that season was that we had great players," Franklin explained. "We had a veteran offense and a very, very good defense. The No. 1 defense in 1980 in the NFL. And we had the No. 1 special teams in the NFL that year. I think that those two things right there gave us an edge over any team that we played. It was really fun.

"Beating Dallas in the NFC Championship Game and just standing on the sideline after the game and looking at the sea of green up there, it was incredible. Some of the fans were in tears. A lot of them were just laughing and screaming and hugging each other. That was really a defining moment for me playing in Philly because they'd won the championship last in 1960.

"They had been hungry for a winner for so long. In 1980, the Phillies won the World Series, the Sixers were in the NBA Finals, we made it to the Super Bowl and I think the Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. It really felt nice to be a part of the moniker: Philadelphia, the city of champions."

Franklin's five-season tenure with the Eagles came to an end four years later when he was traded to the Patriots. He left with 412 career points, which is sixth on the team's all-time scoring list, and spent the next four seasons with New England and one with Miami.

He now makes his home in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife, Sally. They have two sons: Sean, 24, and Shea, 20, who are college students. Franklin, meanwhile, works as a director of finance for an auto dealership.

"I enjoy meeting the people and getting the opportunity to help people out," says Franklin. "There are some people that have tough circumstances sometimes and they actually need a vehicle to drive. A lot of times, a lot of lenders won't give them an opportunity or give them a chance. And that's one of the things that I enjoy doing, making something happen for people that really need it or really deserve it. Because, you know, bad things happen to good people, too."

Where Are They Now: PK Tony Franklin
   
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