UCLA’s all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin forced to retire after neck injury

At 24 years old, Johnathan Franklin’s career is already over.

UCLA’s all-time leading rusher will retire from the NFL after just one season, his career ended by a neck injury that sidelined him in Week 12 last year. The 5-foot-11 back was drafted in the fourth round in 2013 — lower than both he and many analysts expected — but was nonetheless overjoyed to head to the Green Bay Packers.

However, Franklin only carried the ball 19 times for a touchdown and 107 yards — 103 of which came in a Sept. 22 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“He will not be back with us,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters on Thursday. “I can’t say enough about him as a person. I don’t know. He’s as classy as anyone who’s walked through these doors. His situation will be addressed tomorrow.”

Franklin later tweeted that he was also ruled out from returning to the NFL.

After originally arriving at UCLA as a safety, Franklin charted an unlikely path toward the top of the program’s record book. Shedding a fumbling habit that had plagued his college career, he turned himself into an All-American tailback under new head coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone — collecting 13 touchdowns and a single-season record 1,734 yards. He was one of three Doak Walker Award finalists.

Franklin broke UCLA’s career rushing record in a 66-10 win over Arizona on Nov. 3, 2012, surpassing Gaston Green’s 25-year-old mark. He eventually finished the season with a 4,403 career yards, and also set the broke Maurice Jones-Drew’s career record with 4,936 all-purpose yards.

Known as “The Mayor” during his time on campus, the Dorsey High alum held aspirations toward the city’s top political office.

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  • http://www.ivc.com Gotta pinch major SUCC

    I’m sorry for Franklin’s NFL misfortune. However, Franklin still has a bright future outside of playing football and good health. It doesn’t get much better than that.

    • NOBSisdaMAN

      Really? Doing what?

  • Scott

    Damn it. Bummer for JF but I know he will succeed with whatever path he takes.

  • facescar

    I was lucky enough to meet Johnathan in person a few years ago at UCLA. He’s absolutely one of the smartest and kindest people I’ve met. It sucks to hear that his NFL days are over, but I’m excited to see what he devotes himself to next.

    • Blue section 6

      Agreed. Can’t say I met him, but would always remember yelling to get his attention during the Bruin walk before each home game.

      As he got more famous, he would make sure he walked the middle where fans can’t “slap 5s” with him. I’m sure he had his reasons — he would just reply to us with a grin on his face.

      I thought he’d be something special in the NFL as I thought he was always underrated. Just reminds us of how nothing is guaranteed in football. Good luck to him.

  • john wolcott

    As an SC fan I only saw Franklin live one time at the 2012 SC-SUCLA game when he basically put the game away with a final touchdown.
    He was something. But the NFL is “something else,” where only some survive and few flourish