OU football: Why former OU defensive back Dominique Franks wants to return as a coach

Nov. 23—It's been awhile since Dominique Franks was on the field in an Oklahoma uniform, but he knows one thing.

He's ready to be back on the sidelines. But this time, he's ready to coach.

The former OU cornerback hadn't thought much about coaching during his playing days. But after a two-year stint as an assistant coach at Owasso High School, Franks is thinking about his next chapter.

He's hoping it brings him back to his alma mater.

"I loved it," Franks said of his time at Owasso. "I fell in love with the kids. The kids gravitate towards me, so I decided to go back to school [to get my degree]. I was like, 'Man, if I make this my career, what would it be like if I was able to go back to Oklahoma where I played and called it home again and never had to leave?

"It was last year when I really fell in love with coaching and was like, 'OK, I want to make this my career.'"

Franks starred at OU from 2007-2009 and played a pivotal role in the Sooners' run to the national championship game in 2008. He recorded 95 tackles and six interceptions, returning two of them back for touchdowns.

He was drafted in the fifth round by the Atlanta Falcons in 2010 and spent five seasons in the NFL before a brief stint playing professional basketball in Europe. After coaching at Owasso, Franks served as an assistant coach of the USFL's New Jersey Generals.

Franks initially mentioned his goal of coaching for the Sooners last week during an appearance on Between the Lines with Dan Hawk and Scott Pfeil, a radio show on Tulsa's The Blitz 1170. He reiterated that dream in a recent interview with The Transcript while also discussing his relationship with OU head coach Brent Venables and some of favorite memories as an OU player.

(Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity)

What was your experience playing for Coach Venables? And how much is your interest in coaching at OU based on his return as head coach?

"He gave me an opportunity to play at the University of Oklahoma and live out what is a dream to a lot of kids in Oklahoma. Back when I was in high school, getting an offer letter from Oklahoma was bigger than going to the NFL. I owe a lot to Coach Venables for making me the player I was at OU and making me the player I was when I went to the NFL.

"With him coming back, I can honestly say this is the most I've been back to Norman and to the campus since I left school in 2010. If he wasn't there, I don't believe it would be on my mind to go back. But seeing him back and getting to see [OU running backs coach] DeMarco Murray and [tight ends coach] Joe Jon [Finley], I feel welcome again to go back and receive open arms from everybody and see the old faces from when I was in school."

Have you stayed in touch with Venables since you left OU?

"We talked some when he was at Clemson. I told him I was coaching and I just asked him for ideas to become a better coach. I actually was there when they made the announcement [of his hiring]. I talked to him and we exchanged numbers. We talk frequently. I realized that me coaching high school, that was a problem with being able to get hired at any D-1, not even just Oklahoma as an off-field coach. Because if you take that position, they can't recruit at your high school for the next two years.

"So that was kind of a problem. I ended up taking a job in the USFL, which is a pro league, and then I took this season off. So hopefully things come available and if anyone offers me a job, hopefully he'd be willing to take me because you'd be hiring me from the USFL and not from Owasso. So there's a lot of stuff that goes into it. Hopefully God's willing and if something comes open, he'd keep me in mind."

Would you be interested in talking with Venables about joining the staff?

"Yes, definitely. My biggest thing is I don't just want him to hire me because I played for him. I want him to actually let me interview and then you'll see where my mind is, how I've grown from when I was 18-22 years old when I left school and you'll see how I'd be willing to teach those kids how to be better and what to expect when they try to move onto the next level.

"There's a lot of people in this college world that get jobs just because they know somebody and I never want to be that person. But I'd just say, 'Hey, let me interview.' Then when you talk to me, you'll be like, 'OK, he's qualified for this position.' Once the season's over with, I'll reach out or even go to the school or shoot him a text or call him and just put a bug in his ear. So if anything does come open, he'll remember me and be like, 'Oh, I'll give him a call and have him come in for an interview,' and whatever process I need to go through.

What's been your thoughts from watching the team this season?

"We're not used to the season we're having, but at the end of the day, it's teaching. When you bring in a new system, you bring in all new coaches on defense and they have a certain way they want you to play. Some of those guys that have been at OU for three of four years, they haven't played that way.

"As players, it's easy to make mistakes because that's what you're comfortable with instead of doing things the right way, which makes you uncomfortable. So from what I've seen, it's minor stuff. We can be misaligned. We can possibly not run through a gap. We can cover a receiver and not anticipate that based on where he's lining up, he's running a certain route.

"What I've seen, it's all correctable. But it's going to be how those coaches teach and those players believing in what their coach is trying to teach them."

What was your takeaway from playing under Venables?

"He coached us hard, and he loved us harder. You could always tell that no matter how mad he got, it was coming from a place of love. It forced you to listen to the message and not hear the tone. A lot of people can get yelled at but they hear the tone and they automatically shut down."

"What made us so good is we knew when we stepped on the field, we had to match his intensity."

What do you remember about the national championship game against Florida in 2008?

"We really felt like we were the better team just with the pieces we had. The offensive line we had, Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, Juaquin Iglesias. So we were thinking if we could just do our job on defense, our offense will be fine. If they would've had to game plan for DeMarco, that would've opened up our offense so much more.

"The game was played in Miami, so it was basically a home game for them."

What's the moment that stands out the most when you think about your time at OU?

"It'd have to be 2008, hands down. [Against] Texas Tech, hearing "Jump Around" play in the stadium. Just seeing how much fun our fans had. My time at OU, you couldn't really tell if the fans had fun because they knew going into every game we played at home, it was like, 'OK, how bad are we going to beat this team?'"

"So the energy they brought that night and us just jumping on them early, and they played "Jump Around." I remember just looking up and thinking, 'Man, it's a party in the stands.' So I would definitely say that's my best moment is just seeing the fans having fun and celebrating that moment with us."

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580