Scarborough native’s NFL dreams realized after years of sacrifice

From hardship to defending Peyton Manning

Sacrifice is a word commonly tossed around in the world of professional sports.

Athletes can sacrifice their bodies to make a play, block a shot or protect a teammate. It’s safe to say that sacrifice is something that most professional athletes know well.

But few can say they recognize sacrifice the way Denver Bronco’s offensive lineman Orlando Franklin does. While the right tackle currently spends his days protecting legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, his path to the NFL was definitely not an easy one.

“When I got arrested at 14 years old I was arrested on some serious charges,” Franklin said.  “I thought it was over. I didn’t think I was going to be able to go to high school after that. But through the grace of God I was able to get focused, and my mom always stuck behind me.”

Franklin, a Jamaican-born immigrant who grew up in Scarborough, had multiple arrests during his early teens, prompting his mother to take some drastic actions.

“One day my mom sat me down and asked me what I really wanted to do in life. I told my mom I wanted to play football,” Franklin recalls. “She made me write this note; I’ll never forget, it was like a page letter. She made me write it down, saying that if she helped me to get to Florida to play football, that I would do everything in my power to make sure that I make it to college.”

My mom made all these sacrifices for me, I can’t let her down.

— Orlando Franklin

When Franklin was 16, his mother moved him down to the sunshine state, knowing he would never get the football opportunities he needed in Toronto.

“So my mom and me, we write this plan up. She ups and quits her job, she moves to Florida for me,” Franklin said. “So I get to Florida and it’s like ‘okay, my mom made all these sacrifices for me, I can’t let her down.’”

It was not going to be a simple transition into U.S. schools though, as some of Franklin’s credits from his Toronto high school didn’t transfer to his new U.S. school, meaning he would have to retake some Grade 9 courses.

Franklin made good on his promise to his mother, and sought the help of a school guidance counselor to help him reach his goals. He credits this counselor with giving him the extra push he needed to get into college.

“She was telling me that I need to make sacrifices in my life. Whatever I wanted in life was possible as long as I was willing to make sacrifices for them,” Franklin said of his counselor. “Through making sacrifices, always believing that I can and always knowing what I wanted to do in life, I got up every day, I was on time and I made sure that I did the work.”

“I finished high school with 72 Division One scholarships.”

Franklin was drafted in the second round of 2011 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. Despite being a rookie, he started every regular season and post season game the Broncos played that year. There was even some extra attention spent on Denver with the sudden popularity of now departed quarterback Tim Tebow.

And while Tebow-time may be over in Denver, Franklin feels he has made a friend for a long time.

“He’s a great guy, you know?” Franklin said of Tebow. “At the end of the day I look forward to having that friendship for the next 40 years down the line.”