Shortly after he said goodbye to his former Vanderbilt players in Nashville, James Franklin was embraced and welcomed by his soon-to-be Nittany Lions.
Franklin was named Penn State’s 16th coach Saturday after a brief conference call in which a group of trustees approved his contract with a unanimous vote.
Instantly, many current and future Penn State players took to social media.
“Congratulations to Coach James Franklin! Excited to get started,” running back Akeel Lynch tweeted.
“Excited about this one,” running back Bill Belton added. “Ready to get back with squad.”
Soon-to-be Nittany Lions — members of the 2014 recruiting class — also weighed in. Troy Reeder, Jason Cabinda and Antoine White were among those who had positive words for Franklin.
“No more waiting, I knew we’d get the best,” Reeder tweeted.
Franklin said during his introductory news conference that Sue Paterno had reached out to his wife, Fumi, and wished her well. In a statement Saturday, Paterno reiterated the sentiment.
“His deep ties to Pennsylvania and his exceptional coaching record have prepared him well for his new position,” Paterno said. “We wish Coach Franklin great success and we know he will find broad support and encouragement from Penn Staters everywhere.”
Players have begun to filter back to campus and will start classes Monday.
It is not clear when Franklin will meet with them.
When he meets with Penn State players, Franklin will be meeting a group that has been in wait-and-see mode since Bill O’Brien left Happy Valley to take the head coaching position with the Houston Texans on Dec. 31.
But even days before that were filled with uncertainty as O’Brien never publicly addressed his status while being courted by NFL teams.
Unlike O’Brien, the vast majority of Franklin’s career has been spent at the collegiate level. With the exception of one year as a Green Bay Packers assistant, Franklin has 16 years of college coaching experience.
“Hopefully this is the best move for my boys!” former Penn State safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong said.
Many think it is and former Penn State players weighed in as well.
Former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge used eight tweets to sum up his feelings of the hiring process and admitted Miami’s Al Golden — also a former Penn State player — would’ve been his first choice.
But Blackledge praised Franklin and expressed hope that the Penn State community would rally around Franklin.
“I am good with James Franklin,” Blackledge tweeted. “Passionate, Dynamic, Relationship-Oriented, Tireless Recruiter, Smart guy with PA roots ... Most of all he’s coming from a place that balances academics & athletics well. He understands success with honor and will recruit to that.”
ESPN college football analyst Paul Finebaum called Penn State’s hiring of Franklin “a bold and extraordinary move.”
“The hiring of James Franklin at Penn State is the best of any school since the season ended,” Finebaum tweeted.
The alumni group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship endorsed Franklin, too, in a statement.
“We’re happy to welcome Coach James Franklin to the Penn State family and we’re looking forward to cheering for our Nittany Lions this fall,” said group spokeswoman Maribeth Schmidt. “We fully expect that Coach Franklin will continue the traditions of Penn State football — Success with Honor — academic excellence combined with athletic success that have been the hallmark of our university for past six decades.”
Penn State junior Gordon Braumeister considered how the new coach might help the university’s reputation.
“We just added one more to the list of ‘we’ in ‘we are.’ I hope he can bring positive changes to a school that’s struggling with a good image since the Sandusky stuff.”
Trustee Anthony Lubrano went from being concerned on Friday about Franklin’s hiring to being excited on Saturday. Lubrano told The Morning Call, of Allentown, on Friday that he was tired of seeing Penn State and “sex scandal” mentioned together in news reports and said Franklin’s hiring would continue that.
But Saturday, in a statement, he struck a different tone.
“His track record of combining high academic standards with success on the gridiron is consistent with the tradition and values that all Penn Staters know as success with honor and hold in such high regard,” Lubrano said.