Zaire Franklin explains what makes him one of the NFL’s best LBs and trash talkers

Zaire Franklin is a fierce competitor and one of the best linebackers in the NFL. The leader of the Indianapolis Colts recently opened up about his mindset.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin (44) and Baltimore   s Kenyan Drake get in each other
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin (44) and Baltimore s Kenyan Drake get in each other / Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY

If you watch any Indianapolis Colts games, you’ll quickly learn that Zaire Franklin loves to talk. The elite linebacker talks trash just as frequently as he makes tackles— nearly every play. On game days, Franklin is talking to opponents, his teammates, and to whoever else can hear him. Sometimes these moments are caught on field mics and fans are lucky enough to hear just how spicy Franklin is talking.

The best part is that Franklin walks the walk, actually backing up all his words. He’s currently playing elite football and has established himself as one of the best linebackers in football over the last two seasons. After 11 weeks, Zaire Franklin is currently third in the NFL in tackles with 117. He has led the league all year; the only reason he’s currently in third is because Indy is coming off it’s bye week. Roquan Smith is second with 118 tackles and TJ Edwards is first with 121 tackles. Both Smith and Edwards have played 11 games each— Franklin has only played nine.

In a recent ESPN piece by Stephen Holder, detailing Franklin’s journey from a special teams ace to a star linebacker, Franklin opened up about his mindset and approach to the game. Franklin expressed that he is old school, saying, “I don't really feel you're supposed to be friends with the guys that you're playing. When we're out there, when we're between those white lines, I'm not friendly with anybody.”

Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin isn’t looking to make friends

This quote was accompanied by a story from the Week 3 game between Indy and the Baltimore Ravens, detailing how Franklin told then Ravens running back Kenyan Drake that he was soft and could never play with Indy, despite the fact that Drake was Franklin’s teammate with the Colts just weeks prior to the game. No one is safe when lined up opposite of Franklin.

Frankin is from North Philly, so that definitely helped shame his demeanor. He also gives a lot of credit to his late grandmother, who Franklin described as fiery. In an interview with Jim Rome earlier this year, Franklin said that all his trash talk, fire, and energy comes from her.

In Holder’s ESPN story, Franklin also talked about his desire for the Colts defense to be a tone-setting unit that puts fear in opponents. While Zaire Franklin is doing his part, the defense still has a ways to go. In 10 games this season, Indy is allowing 24.8 points a game and 358.5 yards a game, both bottom 10 in the league.

However, the defense has been forcing turnovers, taking the ball away 16 times this season— eighth most in the NFL this year. Additionally, it seemed like the defense was turning the corner in the last two games before the bye week. Indianapolis gave up six points to the New England Patriots in Week 10 and 13 points to the Carolina Panthers in Week 9. Both of those offenses have been bad all season, but Indy could build of those defensive performances. If the unit feeds off Zaire Franklin’s attitude and follows his lead, they should be able to finish the year strong.