Whicker: How rookie DT John Franklin-Myers went from 0-40 in high school to the 11-1 Rams

THOUSAND OAKS — He’s not tired of all this winning.

Eleven times, John Franklin-Myers has trotted off an NFL field and into a winning locker room. That’s 11 more wins than he had in high school, when he went through four years of 0-10 apiece.

The Rams can talk about going through the process and playing one snap at a time. Franklin-Myers is unabashedly loving this. He is also helping it happen, in his rookie season, rotating in and out of a defensive line that features undisputed world champion Aaron Donald.

“This is the most games I’ve ever won in a season,” Franklin-Myers said the other day. “This is crazy to me.”

Franklin-Myers was a fourth-round draft pick from Stephen F. Austin, which plays FCS football, the Triple-A variety.

Before that he went 0-40 at Greenville High in Texas.

It is hard to articulate the emptiness and futility of an 0-10 season under the Friday night lights, let alone four, with the weight work and the practice and the pain and, frankly, the shame. Plus, it’s hot.

The Greenville Lions played Madison twice in those years and lost 64-0 and 61-7. They played Wylie twice and lost 54-7 and 58-10.

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“We did lose a double-overtime game my senior year,” Franklin-Myers said. “That one really hurt. I thought we had it in the bag.

“We had some guys who didn’t have to play football, but they wanted to say they were on the team. They didn’t always give it their all. The other half of the team was probably made up of guys who were getting in trouble all the time. But I wanted to go to college and I thought I could play in the NFL. So I kept playing.”

Franklin-Myers had no idea which college. Then he got an e-mail, “out of nowhere,” from Jeremy Moses, an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin.

Moses and some other staffers came to watch Franklin-Myers play basketball. “I saw them,” Franklin-Myers said, “and I said to myself that I had to show some athleticism. I threw down some of my best dunks.”

The Lumberjacks made their offer. When Texas-San Antonio, an major-league school, tried to get involved two days before National Signing Day, Franklin-Myers said no.

SFA went 8-5 his freshman year and got to the FCS playoffs. It won 21 times in Franklin-Myers’ four seasons. He didn’t think he would be drafted, but then he played in an all-star game sponsored by the NFL Players Association.

Stephen F Austin defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

“I got two tackles for loss, and during the week I didn’t lose any one-on-ones, not once,” he said. “I wanted to answer any questions they might have about how much I wanted it.”

Franklin-Myers knew exactly where he would hold his draft party. It happened at the home of Morrie Littleton, a woman from Nagodoches who had hired him for odd jobs.

“She had me putting up water slides and other things,” he said. “That’s pretty hard work under the sun. She did some things for other players, but a friend introduced me to her and after that, it was like she had my heart.

“I had some money, but I needed to send some home and I was coming up a little short. She helped me get through it. Now she’s got my old car.”

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips had an eye on Franklin-Myers. Bum Phillips, Wade’s dad and the former Oilers and Saints head coach, had played at SFA. Wade also wanted to run a defensive line shuttle that would save legs for the fourth quarter.

Franklin-Myers was on the field when the Rams needed to stop Minnesota at the end. He forced quarterback Kirk Cousins to fumble, which nailed down the 38-31 win.

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 27: Bryce Hager #54 of the Los Angeles Rams hugs John Franklin-Myers #94 of the Los Angeles Rams the Vikings fumbled the ball during closing minutes of the game against Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

That was a prime-time game, as was the 54-51 win over Kansas City, when Donald sacked Pat Mahomes in the third quarter, and Franklin-Myers hopped on the fumble.

Franklin-Myers demands knowledge and his linemates have a long supply. He sponges up whatever Donald says or does.

“We get together and watch tape at night sometimes,” Franklin-Myers said. “Mainly with him, you see the effort he plays with. He’s playing 70 snaps a game, but you can’t tell it because all his plays are the same.

“He’s diving to make plays. He’s got 16 1/2 sacks. Everybody notices that he’s beating his dude clean, but I’d say on maybe 10 of them, another player would have just gotten a quarterback hit. He’s diving and getting there. It made me realize I had to raise my effort level. You see him in the weight room getting ready. He goes out there and does what he wants to do.”

Franklin-Myers just wants to keep winning. One hopes he’ll never act like he’s been there before.

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