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Penn State HC James Franklin on T Olu Fashanu: 'You Guys Are Going to Absolutely Love Him'

Jets First-Round Draft Pick Overall, Is Ready to Watch, Listen and Grow With Green & White


A year ago, Penn State head coach James Franklin met with one of his top offensive lineman, Olu Fashanu, and his parents, advising them that their son was ready to skip his senior season, certain Fashanu would hear his name called in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

"I sat down with his family and advised that he should leave," in a new edition of "The Official Jets Podcast." "His mom [Paige] said 'thank you, we appreciate your recommendation, but he planned on being in college for four years, not leaving without a degree.' She told me: 'Olu is coming back' and I said yes ma'am. The pressure was on me, I had to put Olu in a position to get better, to go from being a first-round pick to a top 15 pick, to graduate and keep him healthy."

So Fashanu returned to Happy Valley as the Nittany Lions finished with a 10th season in charge.

"To me, he's the model Penn State football player," Franklin, 52, said. "This guy could have left last year as probably a first-round draft choice. He decided to come back to school to be an All American to compete for a championship. To graduate. He had one of the highest GPAs [3.7] in one of the best schools in the country, our business school. He just wanted to do everything right. [He was named a finalist for the Campbell Award, a.k.a. "the Academic Heisman."]

"I think he's one of these guys, whatever he wanted to do he could be successful. He's just that type of guy, a tremendous leader. You guys are going to love him on the field, there's no doubt in my mind he's going to get the job done. You guys are going to spend some time around him, his humility and his intelligence. I think the people around the city are going to fall in love with him."

Only a few weeks ago, after the Jets swapped position with Minnesota, they drafted Fashanu (6-6, 317). He joins a revamped offensive line that includes one of his football idols, Tryon Smith, and the recently reacquired Morgan Moses.

Fashanu was named a Nittany Lions team captain at the end of spring practice last year. In the 2023 season he started 12 games, allowed no sacks in 382 pass-blocking snaps, and crowned his final season of college ball with first-team All-American and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors.

Franklin extolled Fashanu's qualities as a leader, which should not be a huge surprise considering his family's background. His father Anthony moved the family from Nigeria to West Hempstead, NY, initially. The family hails from the Yoruba ethnic group and Olu's grandfather Chief Adewale Fashanu played a role when Nigeria secured independence from Britain in 1960.

"The leadership is what stood out the most," Franklin said. "He's more comfortable having challenging conversations with his teammates. With a guy like Olu, a guy who does everything right and people see that, they're open to hearing from their teammate when they know this guy does everything right and has for four years. The other thing is for me at major college level or in the NFL it's all about consistency. Who are the guys who can do it game in and game out, and it doesn't matter who the opponent is.

Franklin added: "His mom, dad and sister are all very successful, the values he was raised with. It's not too many times you have a conversation and the family tells you all the money is great in the first round, but [if he left early] he doesn't have his degree. It's about substance, they are a family that really is about substance and not about chasing shiny things. Being able to have hard conversations with each other, parents, this generation are their kids' best friends, not really their parents. These are two strong parents."

Though Fashanu, 21, was limited in the Jets recent rookie minicamp, dealing with a quadricep he strained at the NFL Combine in February, is likely to see the field at some time in the coming season. He's used to playing with some quality quarterbacks, having protected this year's No. 1 overall draft pick, Caleb Williams, at Gonzaga College High School in 2018-19. And now, at some point, he's likely to be protecting the blindside of QB Aaron Rodgers.

"I was with Aaron in Green Bay his rookie year, and I know he's happy, it should be a great situation," Franklin said. "I know the type of player he [Fashanu] is and the character he has. Those are the type of guys you can't have enough of -- high production, low maintenance in your locker room.

He added: "You guys are going to absolutely love him."

Still, having been around the block, Franklin knows there are no guarantees, regardless of draft position or pedigree.

"There's so many variables that go into a player's success," he said. "But I feel very confident and comfortable with a guy with his physical traits, and combine them with the character he has, those things are usually a winning combination for a long successful career. I'm also confident he's going to represent the Jets in the right light in the community and in interviews. He's the type of guy you want in your locker room. Take those and combine them and it's usually a winning recipe."

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