Since they returned in 2016, the Los Angeles Rams created ways to aide various Southland communities. One of the people who help make that possible is former NFL player and South L.A. native Johnathan Franklin, who is a manager of Community Affairs and Engagement for the franchise.
“[We] use the power of football to prepare our youth to be future leaders in our society,” he said. “We go into various communities and bring the Rams to their town.”
Franklin helps the franchise show they can be a resource to Los Angeles and show that they are more than an entertainment source on Sundays in the fall.
Franklin’s main focus is youth and high school, helping run skills and 7-on-7 camps, professional etiquette classes and financial literacy sessions. The Rams also implemented the “Academic Challenge” where six varsity football teams compete to have the highest GPA during the fall semester. The winning team is rewarded $2,500.
A project Franklin was proud of 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,” according to Franklin.
The Morningside Monarchs and the Oaks Christian Lions were selected. Both teams visited each other’s campus and had discussions with Rams players and police officers from LAPD.
“You have a structure where you have those tough conversations,” Franklin said. “[It was] an opportunity to bridge the gap of law enforcement and those communities.”
Through their NFC championship-clinching season, the franchise remained a transparent ally to the Southland. The Rams responded quickly to the tragedies of the Borderline Bar shooting and the devastating SoCal wildfires by inviting first responders and the families of victims to their Monday Night Football game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
As much as his job helps others, it allowed Franklin to remain involved in a sport that gave him various opportunities in his youth. He was a standout on the field and a scholar in the classroom at Dorsey High School. Some might remember him from the BET reality show “Baldwin Hills,” which gave viewers a glimpse into his senior year.
As a star running back and linebacker, Rivals.com ranked him the No. 16 athlete in the nation. He became a National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame high school registry inductee.
Franklin attended UCLA where he still leads the Bruins in all-purpose yards (4,925) and career rushing yards (788 carries for 4,620 yards). The Football Writers Association of America gave him First-team All-America honors.
The Green Bay Packers drafted him in 2013, but was forced to retire after rookie season due to a neck injury and a concussion. Football was his identity. Franklin began a tough process of finding himself.
“With football taken away, I was depressed, I was extremely insecure and I lost all my confidence,” he said. “That was a moment of realization and searching for me and one of the best things that ever happened to me. The worst moment in my life became the best moment.”
Since he started working with the Rams in 2016, Franklin looked for ways to use football as a catalyst to help youth reach their potential and follow their dreams.
“There are issues throughout the community, poverty being one of them and there’s many people struggling,” Franklin said. “Although we’re doing great things, the job is not done.”