By Najee Ali
As the observance for Black History Month ends, we continue to celebrate unsung heroes in our community.
South L.A. native Johnathan Franklin, who is a manager of community affairs and engagement for the Los Angeles Rams, is one of those heroes.
I had a chance to speak to him this week to learn more about his background and why he is so passionate about the programs the Rams have contributed since their return in 2016. Franklin was a football standout locally at Dorsey High School, where he was named a first-team all-city running back and the Coliseum League Player of the Year.
He then earned a full scholarship to UCLA and had had a stellar career for the Bruins. He still leads the Bruins in all-purpose yards (4,925) and career rushing yards (4,620).
His senior year at UCLA he earned All-America honors and in 2013 was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers.
Franklin’s NFL career was off to a promising start. In Week 3 of the NFL season, Franklin rushed for 103 yards and scored a touchdown, in a loss against the Cincinnati Bengals, but unfortunately Franklin was forced to retire after his rookie season due to a serious neck injury after playing in 11 NFL games.
After a short stint with in the front office of the Packer organization, he was hired by the University of Notre Dame as an administrator for student welfare and development.
In 2016 Franklin returned home and joined the Rams where he immediately hit the ground running to help run skill camps, professional etiquette classes and financial literacy sessions for Los Angeles youth. One of the programs that Franklin is passionate about is the work Rams players are doing to help incarcerated youth. Once a month, Franklin and a Ram player go behind the walls of youth institutions providing guidance and encouragement to those in custody.
Franklin also spoke about the initiative called “Rise with the Rams,” where two varsity football teams of different socio-economic backgrounds were chosen to meet and have sessions to “develop perspective and break barriers.” The Oaks Christian Lions and Morningside Monarchs were the first two teams, selected with both football teams visiting each other’s campuses and having discussions with Rams players and law enforcement officers.
As part of the Rams Black History Month celebration, the team hosted a virtual career panel for more than 70 Inglewood Unified School District students from City Honors High School Feb. 19.
Franklin was the moderator for the event that featured a panel of African-American Rams supervisors and managers. Each panelist fielded questions from participants during a question and answer session before dividing into breakout rooms where students and teachers had the opportunity to ask in-depth questions and learn more about the Rams organization and potential career pathways or fields of interest.
“We’re extremely excited to be here during Black History Month,” Franklin said to kick off the virtual panel. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate it, but also to hear from those that are leading the way in our organization. We want them to share their journeys, their background, and also provide hope and inspiration because the students on this screen are the future game changers.”
Since they returned in 2016, the Los Angeles Rams continues to create ways to help aide Los Angeles County residents. Franklin continues to help the franchise demonstrate that the Rams and himself are just as concerned about the community as they are about winning football games.