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Report: Irish add former UCLA great Johnathan Franklin to staff

Pac-12 Championship - UCLA v Stanford

Pac-12 Championship - UCLA v Stanford

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It appears that Brian Kelly has added another key piece to his football program. The Los Angeles Times reports Notre Dame has hired former Green Bay Packer and UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin to join the staff in an administrative role, focusing on student welfare and development.

Franklin ran for nearly 4,400 yards during his UCLA career, leaving the school in 2012 as the university’s all-time leading rusher. He finished second in Doak Walker voting before being drafted in the fourth round by the Green Bay Packers. A neck injury ended his football career prematurely after just one season in the NFL.

But life after football looks as if it’ll still include football. This from the Times’ report:

Franklin created a LinkedIn account and was contacted by Mike Harrity, a senior associate athletic director for Notre Dame.

“They had me come out to Notre Dame for a weekend,” Franklin said. “I met a few people and by the time I left, they had offered me a job. I didn’t ask for an interview or even ask about a job. God always has a plan.”

While the hire doesn’t bring Franklin to Notre Dame in a coaching capacity, it’s an interesting move for a lot of football reasons. First, Franklin was an elite running back at the college level. He earned All-American honors after a 1,700-yard senior season and ran a 4.46 at the NFL Scouting Combine just two years ago. That can’t hurt the Irish backfield.

Secondly, Franklin seems to be a wonderful outside-the-box in as the Irish coaching staff continues to recruit Los Angeles amidst UCLA and USC programs on the rise. A graduate of Dorsey High, one of the more talent-rich programs in Los Angeles, Franklin’s presence inside the Notre Dame program certainly won’t hurt with high schoolers who still likely remember Franklin’s dominance in Westwood.

Player development and welfare has been a critical part of Kelly’s program from the moment he arrived. Former Alcorn State head coach Ernest Jones filled that role for Kelly before briefly joining Bob Diaco’s UConn staff. Duke Preston, another former NFLer, currently fills a similar role.

There’s no official word out of South Bend on the hire, though Franklin sounds excited to get started.

“I’m really excited, and blessed how it came out,” Franklin told the Times.