Clayton Franks is like any offensive lineman who gets it. Recognition is not part of the job description.
When you’re in the thankless position of protecting the most prized players of a football team’s offense, all you want to do is make sure they remain healthy and that there is a chance they can make a play. The Mansfield Legacy three-year starting quick tackle has become an anchor to a program that is coming off a historic 2016 and wants more in 2017.
“We love being the workhorse and knowing that we can do everything to make sure what we do works,” Franks said. “As an offensive line, you have to be a clique of people and brothers and make sure that you know that your brothers are working with you. You have to be unselfish.”
The Broncos went 11-3 and advanced to the Class 5A Division I Region II championship game before falling to eventual state champ Highland Park, 14-7. However, the program earned respect as it finished second in District 10-5A to Lancaster.
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It also turned out to be a banner offseason for Franks (6-4, 285) as he gave a verbal commitment to Texas Tech. That was an easy decision. Other Power 5 schools including Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State had some interest. However, Franks said they were going to watch him in the fall to see how his game had developed. The Red Raiders saw what they needed to see.
“When I talked to [Tech offensive line coach Brandon Jones], he basically said I was valuable to him,” Franks said. “Really, it doesn’t matter where I could play for them from left tackle to right guard. As player, you want to go where you’re wanted.”
Legacy’s offense doesn’t designate a left tackle or right tackle. It’s a quick tackle or strong tackle. Those labels are usually geared to where the play is going. It’s a zone blocking scheme.
Head coach Chris Melson said his staff has kept the offensive line’s assignments simple over the years. There are different sets of rules for each lineman. That doesn’t mean the play is always going to come to Franks’ side.
The Legacy philosophy of young linemen is to see them play on both sides between eighth and ninth grade and then determine where they would slot the best. Franks didn’t mind the work on defense. But offense became his future.
“He’s always playing on the balls of his feet and not flat-footed,” Melson said. “Sometimes, he can solo up against a defensive end. You can’t put a price tag on experience and leadership. It’s a luxury.”
Melson can lean on Franks to make his leadership become a presence in the locker room with a mix of what he does and what he says. It’s better to have a balance than have one quality outflank the other.
“A part of the silence is that I want to evaluate how we all respond to adversity,” Franks said. “We had to learn how to deal with all kinds of it, from the weight room to the field.”
The Broncos return three offensive linemen between Franks, tackle Toby Griffin (5-10, 205) and guard Cooper McCauley (5-11, 270). Maybe 2016 could be considered a sneak-up year for the rest of Texas when it came to Legacy. There won’t be a mystery anymore.
“My goal is to become one of the most respected programs in the state,” Melson said. “I want people to look at our program and know they can’t count out Legacy. It’s taken 10 years to build this thing.”