The video boards were alight inside Beaver Stadium, bearing messages that read "NITTANY NATION WELCOMES JAMES FRANKLIN" and "WELCOME JAMES FRANKLIN TO THE PENN STATE FOOTBALL FAMILY."
When Penn State's 16th head football coach stepped out of the tunnel with his young daughters in tow for yet another round of photos - Ava and Addison Franklin took turns ringing the victory bell while a bevy of photographers clicked away - the mood was ebullient. Franklin had just accepted what he called his "dream job," one that is bringing him back to his home state to coach a team that aims to rekindle its championship aspirations as it gradually works its way out of the shadows and back into the national conversation.
Before surveying the field, Franklin had sat at a podium in the stadium's media room and talked about the opportunity he had been given. He talked about his ambitions for the Nittany Lion program - a program he had once hoped to play for as a young quarterback growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. "I'm a Pennsylvania guy," he said, "with a Penn State heart."
Now that the ceremonial aspects of his introduction are complete, the hard work begins. Franklin says he only needs about five hours of sleep per night and given the many tasks that lie ahead, even that might be a luxury.
His most immediate priority will be to assemble a staff. He said he has a general idea how it will likely take shape, and while he's eager to put people in place quickly, there are restraints.
"When you're hiring people, there are all kinds of state procedures and university procedures that we have to go through, but the more quickly we can do that, the better, because I can't do it myself," he said. "There are too many things that have to get done, so I have to get those guys in place. Either today or tomorrow, I'm going to sit down and interview the current staff that is still here, and then obviously I have my staff, so we'll see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together."
Franklin also needs to familiarize himself with the players and recruits he inherited. He said he was eager to meet with quarterback Christian Hackenberg, whom he had tried to lure to Vanderbilt. "I recruited Christian out of high school and have a very, very good relationship with him," Franklin said. "I'm going to probably meet with him and his family tonight or in the next 24 hours. As I mentioned before, if you've got a quarterback, you've got a chance. I don't care if it's Pop Warner or little league, high school, college or the NFL. If you've got a quarterback, you've got a chance to be pretty good, and from what I've seen, we've got a chance to be pretty good."
Franklin also talked about earning the trust of the players in Penn State's locker room, some of whom will be playing for their third set of coaches. Trust, Franklin said, is something that's "going to be earned over time. You don't just walk in and grab somebody's trust. It's how you behave and how you interact with them on a daily basis. I think what happens is, I have a coaching staff [made up of people] who are genuine, who are real guys. I'm a regular guy, just like you guys. I don't want to be this robot coach who just sits up here and gives these standard answers. I want to get to know you guys [in the media], and I want you to get to know me and our program. And that's how I am with the players. I don't get up there and just act like a head coach is supposed to act. I talk to them in very plain English and let them know how much we care about them. We're going to get to work. This is their program. We'll be as good as they decide to be. We're just in a position of leadership to help them get there."