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Local football player featured in SI for Kids

An 11-year-old Medford boy is getting some national attention for his jaw-dropping football season.

Kaleb Franklin, a Hoover Elementary sixth-grader, will appear in the newest issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids after he rushed for 297 yards and four touchdowns in his Pop Warner team's victory over Marist in the state championship game at Autzen Stadium on Nov. 13.

Franklin was electric at the running back position this year for the South Medford White Panthers, which finished the season with a perfect record. He scored two or more touchdowns in 10 games.

The magazine is to hit newsstands early this week, said Todd Beck, Franklin's football coach.

Franklin's family and Beck said they expect Franklin to be the magazine's featured SportsKids athlete.

"There are not a whole lot of kids who can run with Kaleb," says Beck.

A photographer working for Sports Illustrated took pictures of Franklin jumping, posing and throwing a football on a chilly day in early December at the Hedrick Middle School football field.

The shoot lasted about 45 minutes, says Nicole Coleman, Franklin's mom.

"It was fun, but that day was freezing cold," the 5-foot-3, 117-pound Franklin recalls, adding that he was also interviewed over the phone by the magazine.

Against Marist, Franklin finished with 19 carries and rushing touchdowns of 63, 52, 47 and 12 yards. He also converted three PATs. Defensively, the middle linebacker had 11 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and a blocked extra-point attempt.

"It was fun and it was a great season," Franklin says. "I've got to thank my coach and my line."

Franklin has played football for four years and used to be a tight end. He also participates in basketball and baseball.

Beck got the nomination process started by submitting Franklin's accomplishments to Sports Illustrated for Kids online. He didn't hear back from them at first, so he tried again.

The second time was a charm, and the magazine responded.

Beck said he carefully analyzed a recording of his team's championship victory so that he could provide the magazine with accurate statistics.

Beck said he became even more impressed with Franklin after scrutinizing the game tape.

"His acceleration reminds me of a younger version of Marshall Faulk," says Beck, who is certainly justified making the comparison — he was a senior at San Diego State University when Faulk was a freshman. "That was the first thing that popped into my head. I haven't been that impressed with someone turning on the afterburners since Marshall Faulk."

Franklin's skills are something special — and so is his personality, Coleman says.

"He's a great kid and he works really hard," Coleman says. "He's been really humble throughout the whole experience."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com