Man of honor |

Man of honor

Steamboat High's Jeff Franks will kick off Friday's football game, then head to play in state golf tourney

Christine Metz

— Between teeing off at Haymaker Golf Course and kicking field goals and extra points at Gardner Field, Jeff Franks is a busy athlete. However, this week is busier than usual for him as he prepares to head to the state golf tournament after kicking off Friday night’s homecoming football game.

On Friday, the junior kicker will be playing in one of the biggest games of the year as the Sailors football team faces the highly ranked Palisade Bulldogs.

After the game, Franks gets a two-day rest before traveling to Springvalley in Elizabeth on Monday to compete as the lone Sailor in the state golf tournament.

Since September, Franks has been balancing the full schedule as a golfer and football player for Steamboat Springs, which has him hitting golf balls at 3 in the afternoon and going to football practice afterward.

“He’s developed a real passion; he loves to compete,” Hank Franks said about his son’s love for sports.

Franks might be facing the state’s top competition at next weekend’s golf tournament, but he said it’s the matchup with Palisade that makes him nervous.

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This summer, Franks played against many of the same state-bound golfers in tournaments sanctioned by the Colorado Junior Golf Association.

“States, I’m not too worried about. It’s the same type of tournament, same people and same competition,” he said.

“Palisade, I am nervous for. They’re currently No. 2 in the state. I feel like there’s something to prove.”

Franks’ football season began on a Sunday earlier this month in the backyard of the Adams’ brothers Wes, Joel and Trace all members of the Sailors football team.

For years, Franks had played golf, ice hockey and baseball, but had always wanted to play football, a team sport that many of his friends played.

“I was over at a friend’s house and started kicking and it just worked,” Franks said.

That Sunday, the Adams brothers were impressed with what they saw and convinced him to come out for the team, which had just lost its returning kicker, Jordy Gunderson.

On Monday, Franks talked to Sailors head coach Mark Drake and came to practice that day.

By Friday he had a successful opening kick for the Salida game.

Since that kickoff, Franks has made good on 12 of 13 extra points and kicked two field goals, one a 32-yard kick that put Steamboat on the board first in its home game against Highland.

“We didn’t know he had that ability. We knew that he was a good athlete. We were pleasantly surprised,” Drake said.

Franks had always wanted to play football, but as a receiver. He, too, was surprised by his new role as the team kicker.

But his father said with years of ice hockey and golf, he has developed the strength in his legs needed for a strong kick.

“He’s an incredible athlete. I really think that does come from his legs,” he said.

Though Franks is starting competitive football relatively old as a junior, he has been playing golf since the age of 4, learning from his father, who is the professional at the Haymaker Golf Course.

That experience showed at the regional tournament as he shot a round of 77 at the Tiara Rado Golf Course in Grand Junction last week to be the only Sailor to earn a shot at state.

“I am happy for Jeff to make it as a junior. That makes him more confident,” Sailors golf coach Jason Deigert said.

Deigert has high hopes for Franks, whom he said is one of the most physically talented high school golfers in the state.

“He’s played a lot of CJGA tournaments with a lot of the players he’ll see down there. He’s not intimidated to be there. He has a very good chance of doing very well,” Deigert said.

But once the golfing season is over, Franks is looking to do more on the football field than kicking.

He is hoping to see some playing time as a defensive back, but knows until the state tournament is finished he will stay in kicking positions.

“I understand it,” Franks said. “But you see everybody hit … I wanted to go play in Glenwood, but didn’t want to risk anything.”

Said Drake: “As soon as golf is over, he’ll be able to stay out there (on the field). We could work him as a defensive safety.”

Though playing two varsity sports has put some time constraints on both Franks and coaches, Drake and Deigert said they have been able to work out a schedule that coordinated five weekday golf tournaments with football practice.

“It was a lot of time crunched into practice. Throughout the season, I think golf was the No. 1 priority, then football,” Deigert said. “But it makes him a more well-rounded individual and athlete.”