Orlando Franklin finding a home on the O-line

Try to picture this for a moment.

Instead of Broncos orange and blue, what if Orlando Franklin were wearing the Avalanche's burgundy and blue? Instead of a massive pair of cleats, Franklin moved his 6-foot-7, 330-pound body on a pair of skates?

Franklin, the Broncos' massive rookie offensive right tackle, at least briefly tried to make it as a hockey player, a natural thought for a kid growing up in Toronto.

He played only one season of organized hockey, at age 14. He could skate and had the size, strength and mean streak necessary to be a defensive enforcer, but that one year on skates was enough for Franklin to realize that his true athletic calling was on grass, not ice.

By the time Franklin, who had been playing football in youth leagues in Toronto since he was 7, was 15, he was already growing into the type of body that makes college coaches go gaga, but he knew that to get a scholarship, he'd have to leave Canada.

"My mom up and moved just so I could play," Franklin said. "She always made sacrifices for me and my brother."

It wasn't the family's first move. Sylvia Allen left her native Jamaica when Franklin was just a toddler in order to get her two boys out of a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Kingston. She began working as an in-home health care aide in Canada and was able to find similar work in Boca Raton, Fla., when the family relocated in time for Franklin's junior year of high school.

He arrived at Atlantic High in Delray Beach much the same way he arrived in Denver after the Broncos selected him at No. 46 overall in the NFL draft: physically impressive but with raw football skills. The difference in talent and speed at the high school level between Canada and South Florida was staggering.

"It was hard at first. But as with anything, it can only get better with time," Franklin said. "I put a lot of work into it and got better."

Franklin quickly emerged as a blue- chip recruit and signed with the University of Miami in 2006. After sitting out a year for academic reasons, Franklin went on to play both guard and tackle in his four-year college career.

The Broncos are hoping — and needing — Franklin to make a quick adjustment to the NFL. He has been the starter at right tackle since the first day of training camp, and has received lots of extra instruction on blocking technique from offensive line coach Dave Magazu, while his teammates constantly remind him of his in-game responsibilities.

After the offense breaks the huddle, right guard Chris Kuper, who at 28 is the line's most veteran player, is the first guy to remind Franklin of what his job is. Through the preseason, Franklin has been stuck to Kuper's side, and it is Kuper's voice that is constantly in Franklin's ear.
"(Kuper) is one of our smarter linemen and can make the calls real early for him," quarterback Kyle Orton said.

Orton also has taken extra interest in Franklin and puts in extra work to make sure Franklin is on track.

"They try to keep me on the page where I know exactly what I'm supposed to do. Kyle knows there are things I sometimes struggle with, so he'll point out — 'Big O, you got him,' or he'll actually say it in his cadence," Franklin said. "He takes pretty good care of me."

It's in Orton's best interest, of course, to make sure his rookie right tackle is up to speed.

The predraft scouting report on Franklin was that he was a superior run blocker, a physical player capable of handling double teams and driving defensive linemen backward. His pass-blocking skills needed refining.

"There are so many calls up front and so much communication going on, and there is so much going on while I'm snapping the football — because I like to play fast, you know — so he doesn't have a lot of time to process that information," Orton said. "He's always been a guy that when he knows who to block and how to do it, he'll get it done."

Franklin has good role models in helping adjust to life as a rookie starter. Left tackle

Ryan Clady, center J.D. Walton and left guard Zane Beadles all were starters as rookies.

"It was tough at first, but it tends to get easier as the days go by," Franklin said. "I'm nowhere near where I want to be. I just have to continue to work at it."

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