James Franklin preaches being positive. That positive mentality was needed to change Vanderbilt's losing culture. Said Franklin,"It's still probably our biggest challenge, changing people's perception of Vanderbilt. First of all, that was the first thing we had to do in our own locker room. Change the perception of how our guys saw ourselves."
Franklin witnessed Vandy's poor perception not long after he arrived. "Our first SEC media day. I walked right through the media. Not one person said one word to me. Coach Saban came in, the place went berserk. People were throwing babies for him to sign. (laughter) Like a rock star."
But now it's Vandy, not Alabama, with the longest current winning streak in the SEC at seven straight. Last year, Vanderbilt won 9 games for the first time since 1915. Said Franklin,"But I do think it speaks volumes for the fact we were able to win nine games this year with probably the least amount of guys drafted and going into the NFL. I think you are going to see that change here pretty soon. You look at how we are recruiting right now. We have the 19th ranked recruiting class in the country this past year. To me, there's something really sexy and exciting about doing something that has never been done before. These guys have a chance to come with us and build their own legacy."
To build a legacy, you need championship blocks. Said Franklin,"Championship mind set. I don't really understand any other mind set you have. What do you do? At the beginning of the year, geez, it would be awesome to be third place this year. Who does that?"
And Franklin embraces the challenge of winning an SEC Championship."There's only three conferences that matter in all of football. That's the AFC, NFC, and the SEC. Everybody else is playing for second place." (laughter)