Orlando Franklin: Holding the line

He’s making millions now protecting Peyton, but Franklin’s most important deal was signed 11 years ago in Toronto

Orlando Franklin is 15 years old and he’s about to sign the most important contract of his life. It’s summer 2002, and he’s sitting at the kitchen table in his family’s two-bedroom home, a community housing unit in the north end of Toronto. Franklin’s mom is the only other person present. He draws up the terms. “I, Orlando Franklin, promise my mother, Sylvia Allen, that I will never get in trouble with the police again.” A day earlier, Franklin’s lanky, six-foot-four frame was locked in a jail cell. He’d spent weeks there. “I promise to dedicate myself to football,” Franklin writes. Then he signs it, “sincerely.”

That piece of paper, now yellowed and sitting somewhere in Sylvia Allen’s kitchen in Montego Bay, doesn’t expire. That its significance outweighs all other binding agreements is a telling admission from a 26-year-old who signed a four-year, $4.35-million deal with the Denver Broncos two years ago. Franklin is now known as “Big O,” and he’s one of the most coveted guards in the NFL, tasked with protecting arguably football’s most valuable asset ever—and certainly the most fretted-over neck in sports—in Peyton Manning. But Big O wouldn’t have his multi-million-dollar deal if he hadn’t drawn up his own terms 11 years ago.

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