Our own Patrick Patterson caught up with Frantz Joseph recently for an exclusive interview. All quotes used in this article are excerpts from that interview.
The Raiders made a lot of controversial picks on draft day weekend but the best selection may have come after the draft was over. The draft wasn’t more than a half hour behind us before the Raiders made a hard play for a guy who embodies the themes of this year’s draft picks like few others. Those themes are character, heart, and work ethic and that player is former Florida Atlantic University linebacker Frantz Joseph.
Pre-draft rankings had Joseph projected as high as the fourth round but somehow he managed to go undrafted. The fact that Joseph had gone undrafted did not go unnoticed by the Raider coaching staff. They knew they had at least one priority phone call to make and they wasted no time in making it. “Shortly after the draft, probably about thirty, forty-five minutes after the draft, I received a phone call from the head of player-personnel. We just began speaking, and he just asked me how I would like to be a guy to come out and help them out in the running game as mike in the middle. I told them I would be delighted. From then on I just had an idea they were interested in me.”
Clearly there were quite a few teams that were a bit surprised that Frantz Joseph hadn’t been drafted. Frantz Joseph was a bit surprised as well. After all, finishing second in the entire nation in tackles usually tends to catch people’s attention. But as is often the case, for what can be mysterious reasons, a player will go undrafted. Before the phone calls from NFL teams start rolling in though, there is the agonizing two day wait through the draft. “It definitely was nerve-wracking,” Joseph said. “The anxiety building up the whole day. Just because of the prediction and the body of work I did, I felt I had a great opportunity to be drafted. Just waiting throughout that whole day really killed me. But for me, everything happens for a reason. I feel the Lord put me in a great position with the Oakland Raiders and gave me a great opportunity to go out there and show what I got.”
This has been the strangest and most eye-opening draft (and post draft) I have ever been witness to in regards to the Raiders. The Raiders were on the opposite end of the spectrum in regards to Michael Mitchell when the team drafted him in the second round despite underwhelming college stats that had him projected as not being drafted at all. And then there is Frantz Joseph, with his accomplishment of second in the nation in tackles which had him projected as high as the fourth round, only to end up going undrafted. But in Cable’s eyes, these two are birds of a feather in the qualities that count the most.
It is about perseverance and overcoming odds. These qualities Tom Cable clearly holds above all others. You can bet that any player acquired by this team while Cable is the coach, will never take anything for granted. Because that is how Tom Cable got to where he is today. This year’s draft has his stamp on it and Frantz Joseph is no different. If any of these guys fail in the NFL you can never say it was for lack of effort. “How I look at it is, every snap, every rep, you can never give. You can never take a play off. You just gotta go hard every play. So every rep I get I just try to leave it out there,” Joseph says. “Knowing where I came from and not ever having anything. My mother [had] a hard life so whatever chance I get, I’m going to leave it out there for her.”
Being closer to his mother was why he transferred from Boston College to Florida Atlantic and it was a move that led to a great deal of harsh criticism. “At the beginning of the process it really affected me mentally, because people were putting me down. Saying I was leaving a higher institution to go to a lower institution, you’re not going to have a shot at the NFL anymore. Just saying I was making a poor decision. In reality it was a blessing in disguise because just going through that transformation and sitting out that transfer year and realizing what I have at stake and how hard I have to work…It really gave me that underdog mentality that I have had all my whole life. If I were to be at Boston College I feel like I would have shied away from that. When you are at a high institution a lot of things are given to you, you are pampered as a high institution division one athlete and you don’t have to work hard for things. And when you are at a lower division one school such as Florida Atlantic and people don’t show much respect you have to grind harder, harder than everyone else. You have to work when everyone else is sleeping so for me, I really feel like that’s going to help me transition into the pros.”
Frantz Joseph is always counting his blessings, and I predict the Raider organization and Raider Nation will be counting their blessings for years to come by signing him. It is said that most blessings come in disguise. Apparently his Florida Atlantic uniform was enough of a disguise to keep Joseph from being drafted. “Florida Atlantic never produced a professional football player,” Frantz points out. “Schools that have guys go to the pros even though their names are not that big, even if they are not division one football, NFL guys have faith in that school because that school has produced NFL players. Florida Atlantic has never had a guy in the pros or a guy drafted.”
So what does Frantz Joseph bring to the table? “First and foremost, I think my leadership skills and working hard,” says Joseph. “I know I’m the guy just coming through the door, but once I get the hang of it I know I can show the guys coming in behind me or even the older guys how the job is supposed to be done because that’s one thing I feel like I have been blessed with since day one. And number two is just a nasty attitude, the way the game is supposed to be played as a linebacker. Like I said, just step in and help them win football games.”
And where does he fit on this team? The most likely scenario at this point will be that he will be working with Kirk Morrison at middle linebacker for some much needed depth. “Kirk Morrison is a great football player, he excels on the field. He’s a good player, but I am just coming in just whatever I can do to get better. Whatever I can do to come in and help the team win,” Joseph reiterated. “Whether it’s special teams, whether its holding a PAT kick, whether its pouring water, even if it’s giving signals on the sidelines. It doesn’t matter to me. Whatever I can do to get better. Defense is definitely one thing I want to get better at, I want to step in help if I can. Special teams is another aspect I want to step in if I can. For me, whatever opportunity presents itself, I will be first in line.”
When asked if there was one thing he wanted to say to the Raider Nation Joseph said, “Believe you got a guy who is going to come in and bust his butt every day. First one in, last one out and like I said, going to do anything it takes to get the Raiders and the Raider Nation better and back to the old days, and that is the tradition of winning.”
I believe in him.The Raiders were not alone though. There were a number of NFL teams for which Joseph’s having gone undrafted did not go unnoticed at the conclusion of the draft. “Before the Raiders [called], the Washington Redskins called and offered me a deal. The Raiders called me second. After that I had the Baltimore Ravens call and offer me a deal. Shortly after that the Denver Broncos called and offered me a deal. When the Denver Broncos heard about the Raiders, they definitely tried to beat them out as far as signing bonus and all that stuff. I feel like the Raiders are somewhere I want to be. Not only because of the scheme they run [but] because of the tradition they have. I feel like we’re just a couple pieces away from turning it around.”