Fighting On 101: A Lesson From Frankie Telfort

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Telfort used that strength to get through the first year, and it only got easier from that point on. “I kind of let go of the fact that I wasn’t a player and I don’t play anymore. I do have a lot of physical ability left so I can throw a route or two here and there,” he says of his experience coaching for the past four years. He goes to every practice, every meeting, every game, getting the full USC football experience but from a perspective he never anticipated. The best part? Getting to see his friends grow and develop into great collegiate athletes.

“When I see my friends make plays, it’s all in good fun. I feel like whey they make a play, I make a play,” he said. “In the linebacker corps, Dion Bailey is ballin’, he has like three picks in three weeks. Hayes Pullard is flying downhill…just to be a part of it all is a blessing.” Telfort came to USC to study medicine because he knew that after football was over he wanted to have a career that would bring him satisfaction, and helping people definitely does that. Coaching was more of an afterthought, something he might have done after being a doctor in the real world for some time. “My dad always told me to know the game very well and if I can’t be a player, be a coach. I think it was definitely a dream for him,” Telfort noted. “For me, it definitely was something I saw coming later after all my goals and dreams were met. But obviously, it’s a huge part of my life now.”

The next step for Telfort is to graduate in May, and ideally stay on at USC as a graduate assistant coach. If that doesn’t work out, he will take more classes and start his volunteer hours at a hospital, as a part of Physician’s Assistant training. Before, this would have been the time that he and his teammates would be enjoying their victory lap of USC before departing to the NFL. But Telfort relinquished that plan long ago, and instead looks forward to seeing his friends live out their dreams.

“I’m really close to TJ and Jawanza and Matt [Barkley], and when they make plays and get the recognition they deserve, it feels great. I have seen them all come of age, and I am excited for what they will be able to do in the future,” Telfort said.

“I feel like I’m living out my dream through them.”

During Saturday’s game against Cal, Telfort will be recognized for his commitment to the Trojan football program, surrounded by family and friends that were there during the before, and helped him get through the after. He feels as if this moment represents everything he has worked for in his new life. As a coach, Telfort had the opportunity to travel to Tokyo during the summer 2012 to teach a Football 101 class, something he would have never seen himself doing. He says that the experiences he has had as a result of staying with the team may not have ever happened if his ordeal would have never happened, and he is thankful for them.

“I think that it’s just a culmination of all the work I put into the program. I volunteer all these hours; I didn’t have to be around the program. I could’ve just been a regular student. All the six a.m. meetings and practices, all the hours of game films, the good times, the bad times, the sanctions…I feel like it has all come to this point. It feels good to be recognized for it, but being around my team is reward enough. Being able to have relationships with these guys and help their reach their dreams is enough.”

Telfort never got to suit up for a single game of his college career, and because he signed a release saying that he officially retired from the game, it is likely he will never be able to do so. If there were a chance that he could sign every waver in the world just to suit up once as a captain, or to field a kick-off and then take a knee, he would welcome the moment. But if he had to do it all over again, knowing that coming to USC would mean the end of his career, he says with conviction that he would make the same decision.

“I would definitely choose USC again. There’s no other place like it, and there’s no other family like it.”

Often times we think fighting on is when a quarterback puts the team on his and wins the game, or when the underdog comes from behind and pulls off a huge upset. In reality, fighting on is when you have your livelihood taken from you, and instead of crumbling under the weight of your sadness and anger and pain, you shoulder the burden with dignity and vow to rise again.

That is exactly what Frankie Telfort has done over the past four years. For that reason, he just might be the one of the greatest Trojans amongst us.