A lot of college coaches spend months -- sometimes years -- in search of a leader to establish the tone and set an inspiring example inside their locker room.
Missouris Gary Pinkel does not have that problem.
Tigers quarterback James Franklin is more than a player with 4,533 passing yards and 49 total touchdowns in three seasons and more than a player coming off a series of injuries -- he is also a happy warrior, an engaging man with a quick smile, the kind of guy who shakes your hand with two of his own.
He also has a solid perspective on life and the game he plays.
If I pursue the NFL, that would be cool, but my dad is an evangelist, and I want to be an evangelist when I get older, the 21-year-old said at SEC Media Days on Tuesday. I want be able to go out and speak to congregations and move people, maybe be a motivational speaker as well.
He is off to a great start. More artful in his comments than any other player in the first day rotation at SEC Media Days, Franklin has the innate ability to connect with everyone he meets, individually or in a group. It was only natural that he would be a communications major.
I like being able to help people at the quarterback position, he said when asked about his role on the team. Football is a team sport and everyone has their own responsibility. Mine as quarterback is to help people.
The answer came naturally, timed just right but not a way that seemed rehearsed. He was also honest about what Missouri needs to do to compete in the SEC going forward.
Certainly were going to try to be a little more efficient this year, get the plays called a little quicker and simplify things so that I might have a few extra seconds to read a defense, he said. We cant make mistakes. That will be our biggest thing: we have to get better at executing and cut down on the mistakes. That is a big part of my job.
Franklin did not play quarterback until his junior year at Lake Dallas High School in Texas.
Before that I played defensive end and I had a lot of offers to play in college as an athlete but only a few to play quarterback, he said. So when it came time to pick a college, I had some things I was looking for. I wanted to go somewhere where I could play quarterback, compete for my position, and go to church on Sunday. I could do all of that at Missouri."
Ask Franklin about the party scene in Columbia and you will get a big-eyed blank stare.
But ask him about leadership and he lights up like a child at Christmas.
My parents raised me to lead by example, he said. In high school I never really had to lead vocally. Coming to (Missouri) it was different, because when I saw guys not doing things exactly right, I let it slide and didnt say anything or do much about it. But I learned that being quarterback, you have to be assertive and let guys know that if they are doing something right and if they arent doing things right. Its been an adjustment, but Im learning to be more vocal and show more passion.
His parents, Willie and Pamela Franklin, are not attached to a specific church but they travel the world spreading the gospel. In the time James has been at Missouri his parents have visited all 50 states and four countries.
One thing my dad always let me know growing up was that evangelism can be anywhere, Franklin said. You dont have to take a mission trip. Technically the people are the church. You can just be talking to somebody at the store or right outside your house and thats also evangelism.
Then he looked away for a second, deep in thought. When he made eye contact again, the smile was as broad as ever.
I would be really blessed if I could do that as well."