In sports, sacrifice is often preached by coaches, and it’s an essential driver of success in any sport. Athletes sacrifice sleep,  time with their friends and loved ones,  weekends, holidays, and birthdays, all for that one inch that will separate them from the competition. As a high school senior, Ja’Mion Franklin sacrificed more than just his time. The star football player donated his stem cells to save his father’s life and help beat Myeloid Leukemia. As a senior at Duke, his willingness to put others before himself has earned him distinction way beyond the football field.

Who is Ja’Mion Franklin?

Standing at 6 foot 3 and 300 pounds, Franklin possessed all the physical attributes of a Division I caliber defensive tackle. In his senior season at Caroline High School in Maryland, he recorded 45 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, four sacks, and four forced fumbles. After high school, he played three seasons at Notre Dame, but was hampered by injuries during his time in South Bend. After three seasons at Notre Dame, Franklin began to battle with mental health issues and decided to transfer to Duke to be closer to his family.  In his first season with the Blue Devils, tragedy struck the Franklin family again when his mother was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. Even with the diagnosis, his family never lost hope, and he pitched in to help wherever he could. 

“God doesn’t give you things you can’t handle,” he told, “so we just stayed strong as a family and came up with a plan. I worked with my coaches and they allowed me to make frequent trips to Maryland to ease the burden on the family by driving my mother to appointments, going grocery shopping, among other things.” 

In 45 games as a Blue Devil, he recorded 58 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, and 4.0 sacks, but it was his impact off the field that endeared him to the community in Durham. In his spare time, he volunteered with “Be a Match,” a bone marrow and stem cell donation registry, and with the Durham Rescue Mission and Urban Ministries of Durham, helping those facing food insecurity and homelessness.

“It’s something that, as a child, I used a lot—especially the food pantry. There were many times when my family wasn’t as financially capable or stable as they are now. The food pantry was something that we relied on a lot. To get behind the scenes and help prepare the boxes and lift heavy boxes that the volunteering people couldn’t, it meant the world to me to finally be on the other side and give back. I thought of myself as a child, and that child could potentially be getting a meal from me, helping get that food to their table. That was really important to me. It means the world,” he told reporters.

The Future

It was because of this hard work that Franklin was selected as a semi-finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy​​, an award given to an “FBS player who best combines exemplary community service with leadership achievement on and off the field.”

With a degree in visual studies under his belt, Franklin will now look to the NFL for his next challenge.

As Franklin sets his sights on being selected for the NFL draft the challenges he overcame to reach the pinnacle of the sport can teach an extraordinary lesson. The challenges he faced when he was young have pushed him to make a huge impact on the next generation.  Sometimes the challenges faced today are just a setup to help people tomorrow.