Orlando Franklin made major life choice early

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Orlando Franklin was 15, fresh out of jail for a second time and looking over a contract written by a mother who was determined not to lose her youngest son. "He wasn't listening," Sylvia Allen, Franklin's mother, said in her Jamaican accent Wednesday from her home in Queens, N.Y. "He was stealing cars, driving around. I wasn't worried, because he was a very smart kid. I knew he would eventually come around. He just was going down the wrong path and hanging around with the wrong people."

Franklin grew up to be enormous in size and right by the world. He is one Super Bowl game away from completing his streak of three consecutive seasons as the Broncos' starting right tackle. He is a young man with a troubled past who shares his story with today's youths in hopes he can influence one or two of them.

"When I was younger, I thought nobody was on my side, nobody would help me out," Franklin said. "I was a product of my environment. At one point in my life, I thought it would be cool to get arrested, because all my friends had already got arrested."

The first time Franklin was arrested, he was 13 and charged with robbery. Mom bailed him out the next day. The second time Franklin was arrested, he was 15 and charged with robbery and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Mom let him sit in jail for 13 weeks.

"The first time clearly didn't work when she came and got me," Franklin said. "The second time when she left me in there, I learned my lesson."

Football vs. hockey
Out of jail and back at home, Mom sat Orlando down. What do you want to do with your life, son? Franklin had played hockey his freshman year in high school. A defenseman, right-handed stick, pretty fair skater.

"I was a little bit of an enforcer," he said, smiling. "I tried to bully a little bit."

But he played football too, and his growing body that is now 6-foot-7, 315 pounds told him he was better suited for rumbling on ground than sliding on ice. The family had relatives in Florida, where football is a way of life.

But before Mom agreed to move her son down to the coastal town of Delray Beach, Franklin had to sign the contract.

He had to promise Mom he would never get in trouble again. And he had to promise to be a good boy.

Franklin honored his mom's pact. He graduated from high school and played four seasons at the University of Miami. Selected in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Broncos, Franklin signed a four-year contract that included a $1.68 million signing bonus.

It wasn't the first contract he signed, nor was it the richest. It's not always money that defines the richness of one's life.

"A great guy," said Broncos left guard Zane Beadles. "I know a little bit about his past just from hanging around the guys, talking about how we grew up.

"You see it in football. I had tons of teammates in college who were from Compton or Watts, and the things they grew up seeing and being involved with. In my experience, a lot of those guys are the best guys and some of the best friends you could ever have."

Mainstay in lineup
Counting playoffs, the Broncos have played 53 games since 2011, and Franklin has started all 53. No. 54 will be Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

He has remained the starting lineup despite injuries serious enough to keep other players on the sideline.

He started a few days after learning his half-brother from his father's side was killed in Jamaica.

Orlando was born in Kingston and lived there until he was 3, when his mother moved him and older brother Kieno to Toronto. What little Orlando knew of his homeland was enough to understand he couldn't go back.

"My brother was killed because he was doing the wrong things," he said. "Being that it is Jamaica, I was advised that I shouldn't go to the funeral because of what he was doing when he was killed.

"I was lucky to be with an organization like the Broncos, because they helped me get through it."

Playing that game that week (against San Diego) was probably the best thing I could do for that situation."

It could have worked out so much differently for Franklin and he knows it. Besides his mom, the contract and his own self-reflection, Franklin credits his older brother, Kieno, for his conversion.

"My brother had a lot of run-ins with the law," Franklin said. "He said: 'Look, we can't have two in the family have all this happen. I'm a screwup already. I've messed up so much. You have an opportunity to stop messing up.' "

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