Former Olathe North High School running back James Franklin will be remembered for his smile as much as his football exploits by coaches and teammates.
Franklin, 23, was found dead on Monday at The Edge At Olathe apartment complex, according to the Olathe Police Department.
“I’ll remember him as a kid with a big smile on his face,” said Olathe North athletic director Jason Herman, who served as Franklin’s running backs coach his sophomore season. “He always came out ready to work. He was a quiet kid even when he was here at North. He went about his business, but he was always a happy-go-lucky kid and really enjoyed being at practice and competing in games. He was just a great kid to be around.”
Jason Peete, who was a senior with Franklin on the Eagles’ undefeated state championship team in 2009 and played with him for one season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, agreed.
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“He was a guy of good character,” Peete said. “He was real passionate about what he did. He had goals, and he was able to see them and pursue them and basically just had good character about him.”
As a senior in 2009, Franklin broke Jim Bouknight’s single-season rushing record with 2,803 yards. He also broke Darren Sproles’ career rushing record that season with 5,916 yards.
Franklin was chosen as the Simone Award winner that season. He played one season at Nebraska-Omaha before the program was shut down, then led Northwest Missouri State in rushing as a sophomore and junior.
“James definitely a special kid on the football field,” Herman said. “He just had that ability to make people miss. He had unbelievable vision. He had a great motor and work ethic in practice. … He was a special athlete.”
Funeral arrangements have been finalized for Franklin.
The family has organized a candlelight vigil for Franklin at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at Center of Grace, 520 S. Harrison St., in Olathe.
Franklin’s funeral will be Feb. 7. Services will begin at 10 a.m. at Lenexa Baptist Church, 15320 W. 87th St. Parkway. The family will receive guests during a visitation from 6-8 p.m. on Feb. 6 at Penwell Gabel Funeral Home, 14275 Blackbob Rd., in Olathe.