Zaire Franklin

Sense of Purpose: Zaire Franklin

Zaire Franklin Continues to Bring His Best to the Colts and the Indy Community 

Writer / Ryan Kennedy
Photography Provided

Zaire FranklinWhen Zaire Franklin was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL draft, he didnt know where his new team was located. 

Honestly, I didn’t know where Indiana was,” says the linebacker drafted out of Syracuse University. I’m not good at geography. That’s like my weakest point. I was excited, first of all, but I really didn’t know much about it. I had no prior knowledge. I had never even been to the Midwest before.”

Franklin did know that he was joining a organization that valued winning the right way on the field and cultivating a culture of service off of it. The Colts organization wants players who represent Indianapolis in a positive way. It took some time for the Philadelphia native to adjust to the slower tempo of life in the Midwest, but he knew right away that he wanted to make Indianapolis proud. 

2021 saw Franklin, a team captain, have the best season of his career. In the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, Franklin started 11 games, recording 40 tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt. In March of this year he agreed to a three-year, $12 million contract extension with the Colts. 

It really felt great to know that the organization valued me the same way I valued the organization,” Franklin says. Indiana was the home where I was drafted and where I started my career. I got real memories in Indianapolis – real relationships with people in the building, not only from teammates and coaches, but even personnel and media guys and everybody in the booth.” 

Franklin says it was during his fourth season when it hit him that Indianapolis was his home. Over the past four years me and my family, we found the Indianapolis that works for us,” he says.

Zaire Franklin

With his new deal signed, Franklin says he began looking for more ways to be a part of the community. I’m going to be in Indianapolis for three more years,” he says. “I got to immerse myself even deeper in the culture. That was why this year I went to the Indy 500 for the first time, and I loved it. That was a great experience.”

Franklin found that the best way to connect with the community is through service. Community service is something I’m super passionate about and spend a lot of my time on,” he says. “From day one I always just wanted to do my best to help impact the Indianapolis community in a positive way.” 

Every week for four seasons Franklin says hes looked for ways to be of service to the community, with events like jersey giveaways and voter registration drives. Last year the Colts hosted a program for which players mentored local youth for four weeks. When those kids attended a game, one of them asked Franklin to get a turnover and give him the ball. During that game Franklin blocked a punt, but was unable to recover the ball. He says moments like that are when he really feels like hes impacting the community. I really get my most understanding of what the city really has to offer through service, because I feel like then you really get to meet the people who make the city work,” he says. 

In 2019 Franklin started Shelices Angels, a nonprofit named after his late mother. The organization works with young women, providing them with different opportunities and experiences they might not otherwise have. After Franklins rookie year, the organization took a group of girls to the Google offices in New York City. 

Shelices Angels also focuses on providing kids with education on financial literacy. Franklin has a degree in finance and has been managing his own finances since he lost both of his parents at the age of 15. Financial literacy, he says, is something a lot of people need to learn, and he believes in providing kids with whatever tools they need.  

Zaire FranklinNot many seventh-round draft picks get second contracts in the NFL. A lot of players who have achieved what Franklin has achieved would be satisfied. A veteran presence in the locker room, a leader on the field and off of it, Franklin says he has a lot more left to do. 

If I’m really being honest, it’s so much more that I want to do for Indianapolis, strictly just from a service standpoint,” he says. “Then, we got to bring the city a championship. That’s something that we need. Darius [Leonard], Kenny [Moore], all the guys, we talk all the time about just what that would mean, not only for ourselves, for our organization, but what that would do for the city.”

As Franklin prepares for his fifth NFL season and his fifth year in Indianapolis, he says he takes a great deal of pride in representing his adopted home. There’s still so much more that I can give for the city and that we can give to the city as a team,” he says. “That’s really what my motivation is.”

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