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Path to coaching well traveled

Bucs defensive line coach Jethro Franklin never saw himself as a coach. Now, he loves it so much he often spends 20-hour days at the office, breaking down film and game-planning. He sat down with Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder to talk about sleeping on the office couch, winters in Green Bay, his globetrotting childhood and more.

I understand you were born in France.

I didn't spend much time there at all. I don't even remember it. I'd like to go back at some point, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I think you can appreciate that stuff more when you're older.

You were an Army brat, right?

Yes, I was. We had a lot of stops along the way. We lived in Panama for a while, Virginia, California, Texas, Alabama. My sister was born in Germany. And here's the ironic thing: I'm doing the same thing to my kids. A year here, two years there. That was the reason I didn't want to join the military, because of all the moving around. Here I am coaching and doing the same thing.

What has the road been like?

It's been crazy. I was at Fresno (State) for eight years, UCLA for one, went to Green Bay for five, USC for one, and now I'm here. It's just like being in the military.

How was Green Bay? It ain't L.A.

It's a good place. It's a very homey place, obviously. It's definitely different. Aside from the weather, which you just have to adapt to, it's a pretty nice place. The people are friendly, the schools are good, and it's great from an affordability standpoint.

Was the first winter a shock to the system?

Oh, yeah. The winters there are brutal. There's no doubt about it. People who have lived there all their lives, it's still hard on them. You're going to be buying a lot of coats.

Do coaches have time for hobbies? It doesn't seem like it.

Well, not really. I'm just an old ball coach. I spend a majority of my time trying to get better at that. I will go out on the golf course in the offseason and mess around a little, but I don't take it serious enough to be good at it. I like to do a little fishing, throw a hook in the water now and then. I like to jog. That helps take my mind away from football a little bit because it's such a demanding job.

What's a typical day like for an NFL coach? I've heard horror stories about the hours.

Well, I get here anywhere from 5:30 to 5:45 in the morning. Some days are longer than others, of course. I can be here as long as until 2 in the morning. Fridays are usually days when coaches can go out and do the things normal people do like get a haircut, go to the bank or run an errand, go to the dentist. But Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, those are usually the long, hard days. Then, Sunday is a big day, obviously. We work a lot of hours, but you don't look at the hours. You're not in this job to look at the clock, otherwise you're in the wrong profession. Your family has to understand and get used to it. They know when it's football season they're not going to see a lot of me.

Have you ever slept in your office?

Well, I try not to make a habit of it. It's easy to do, I know that. You try to get home even to just see the kids and kiss them on the forehead. There's something to that, even if it doesn't seem like much. That's what I think. I try my best not to let it get to that point. If it's 3 o'clock in the morning and I have to be back in two hours, I'd probably go home and just be there for a little bit just to keep things in perspective. But I have slept in my office before. I can't lie about that.

Do you find ways in the offseason to compensate for your absence during the season?

Definitely. During the offseason I try to make it mostly about family. You go hard for six or seven months, then the other five or six months, you're still working, but the super long hours aren't there. You can take the kids to school or meet your wife for lunch, go to Disney World, take a weekend here and there.

You kind of fell into coaching. How did that happen?

My college coach, Jim Sweeney at Fresno State, he hired me. He was the one who's really responsible. When he asked me, I just looked at him like he was crazy. I told him, "I'm playing football. I plan to have a long career in the NFL." And sure enough, while I was still playing, he pulled me out and made me a defensive line coach when I was 24 years old. He saw something in me that I didn't see in myself.

How did he know?

Well, the biggest thing you have to have as a coach is he has to be a leader. I was a team captain and a decent player. I had a lot of accolades on the field, so guys kind of clung to me. I had a little bit of a leadership quality. It wasn't something I was trying to do. It was something natural that he just kind of saw.

Did you have a high point of your playing career? What will you tell your grandchildren about?

A lot of good things happened for me. I had five sacks in a game a couple times (in college). But there was one game where we went to Cleveland and I sacked Bernie Kosar when I was playing for Seattle. That was my first start in the NFL. That was a good day.

FAST FACTS

Jethro Franklin

Job: Defensive line coach.

Age: 41.

Family: Married to Cherise with two children, Khalil (9) and Takara (7).

Playing career: Two-time All-America selection as defensive lineman at Fresno State; 11th-round draft choice of former Houston Oilers in 1988; played for Seattle Seahawks in 1989.

Coaching career: Began at Fresno State in 1991; Buffalo Bills assistant (1994); Cleveland Browns assistant (1995); UCLA interior defensive line coach (1999); Green Bay Packers defensive line coach (2000-04); USC defensive line coach (2005).

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