Saturday, December 30, 2006

50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #5 - ROD FRANZ

#5 - ROD FRANZ - GUARD (1946-1949)
Here's a list of Golden Bears who were three-time selections as a first team All-American:

1. Rod Franz

Franz enrolled at Cal in 1946 following his release from the Army Air Corps, and became an immediate starter for an awful 2-7 team that scored in double digits only three times all year. Franz wasn't the problem; he started most of the year and was named an Honorable Mention All-America by some services. Despite being of average size - 6'0"/189 - Franz was smart and quick - an excellent pulling guard and a sure tackler.

In 1947 Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf became Cal's head coach after a successful stint at Northwestern. Franz (and another Cal sophomore who we'll shortly meet) embraced the new coach's running offense, and led the post-war revival of Golden Bear football. The formerly hapless Bear offense surged to average 27.5 points per game, while allowing only 11. A 39-14 loss to USC at home was the only thing separating Cal from its first trip to the Rose Bowl in a decade. Franz was named first-team All-America by the Football Coaches and Grantland Rice.

The following year Franz and his teammates got past USC and everyone else en route to a 10-0 regular season and a #1 ranking. The Bears lost a tight Rose Bowl to Waldorf's former team, Northwestern on a touchdown with three minutes to play. Franz was again an All-America choice, this time by the Associated Press and the New York Sun.

In 1949 Jackie Jensen was gone, and the Bears were led by QB Bob Celeri, but thanks to Franz's leadership and blocking, the results were the same. Cal again rolled to an undefeated 10-0 regular season behind an even more powerful offense that averaged 28 points per game. But again the Bears fell short in the Rose Bowl, losing to Ohio State on a field goal in the last two minutes. This time Franz was a unanimous choice as All-America, and was featured on the cover of Sport Magazine for his heroics. Franz became only the second PCC player to make All-America three times (WSU's Ed Goddard was the first).

With neither the body nor the driving interest for professional football, Franz was drafted as an afterthought in the 26th round by Philadelphia. He coached at Cal for two years, and then pursued a business career. A College Football Hall of Famer, Franz died Nov. 27, 1999, at Sacramento, Califorina.

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