Down the Middle: TRA two-sports standout decides to line up a football at Rhodes College


By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Maybe the least favorite word in Franklin Garner’s vocabulary is hook.

As the placekicker for the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels, that was the last thing he wanted to do in a big game situation. His other primary sport at the school was golf.

Anyone who has ever teed up on the links knows hooking the ball is a nightmare. Garner has mastered both activities to the point he has a tough decision to make when it came to college.

On March 27 in the TRA Lobby he made it official that he will attend Rhodes College in Memphis and be the future kicker for the Lynx. For the past two season Garner has been the not-so secret weapon of TRA Head Coach Collin Pinner.

“On the field I am going miss, for the last two years I hadn’t had to worry about special teams,” he acknowledged. “‘You just go do your thing buddy.’ We’re going to have to do a lot of things differently like onside kicks and different types of kicks. A lot more opportunities for us to go for it on fourth down.

“Off the field I am going to miss, we build a strong relationship around golf,” Pinner continued. “I love to play golf but I’m not very good. He’s really good. We would play together and he would give me some pointer on my golf game. I coached him in football and he coaches me in golf.”

Garner was ranked in the top 15 for golf in Tennessee. He was one of the best kickers in the national receiving an invitation to the national camp in Milwaukee.

With the support of his parents, Tom and Allison, Franklin was able to attend several Kohl’s Kicking Camps from Memphis to Nashville. He also participated in the Spring Showcase Camp in Dallas.

“He started kicking for the football team when he was in the eighth grade,” Tom recalled. “They didn’t do much kicking, especially PATs. When he was in the eighth grade they got more comfortable with him kicking PATs. So he started doing that. That’s probably when he really started working at it.”

The work really began to pay off for Franklin by his junior season leading to his favorite memory on the field.

“Probably the opening game my junior year against Gibson County, it was an overtime win,” he said. “It started off really slow then both teams started trading touchdowns. It ended up going into overtime tied at 21-21. We scored and kicked the extra point. We were up by 7 and stopped them on the next play.”

Franklin shared many special moments with his Rebel teammates like reaching the playoffs his junior and senior campaigns. TRA earned a home playoff game in 2017.

“It was always nice to know if you got to about the 30-yard line, we could probably take a shot for three right here,” Pinner said. “You got in there about the 20, you felt you had an automatic 3.  A lot of places I’ve been, you had to take a shot for it on fourth down. That was not the situation having Franklin.

“He was a weapon from all spots on the field,” he continued. “He got to 46 in a game for high school. I don’t think a lot of people realize he kicks off the ground. So the transition for him from high school to college is going to be a lot easier for him.”

Allison said her son is good at adjusting in athletics and in the classroom. Franklin, a Boy Scout since first grade, has even earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

“He went for a kicking camp and loved the campus,” she recalled. “Academically he has always strived to do his very best. He made an excellent grade on his ACT. They were interested in him too.

“Very proud and happy, not just because of the proximity,” Allison continued. “But he wanted to go to a good academic school as well as continue kicking. That had a lot to do with it.”

Rhodes and Head Coach Jim Ryan said Franklin’s accuracy on the field and success in the classroom. At the time of his Division III signing to the Lynx, Franklin was carrying a 3.85 grade point average. He scored a 30 on the ACT.

“I think he really liked Rhodes because of the academic environment there,” Tom said. “There was something he didn’t know like classroom size and student to teacher ratio being outstanding. I think he was really interested in that first and foremost but he continuing to play football is a bonus.”

Pinner said he will still try to  challenge his former kicker to a round of golf in the future while he is taking on his next round of challenges at Rhodes.

“He is dedicated to his craft,” Pinner said. “I trusted him to do what he needed to do.

“He’ll do fine academically because he’s such a dedicated kid,” Pinner concluded. “He knows if he has to do something, he’s just going to do it. Those types of people are rare but those types of people are very successful.”

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