Former Utah defensive end John Frank is back working out with the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL, hoping to make a place on the team that he suddenly and mysteriously left on the first day of fall camp in late July.
"I'm going to take it and run with it this time," said Frank by telephone from a Philadelphia hotel Monday after he'd been through the first day of the team's off-season conditioning program at their brand-new NovaCare Complex, a $37 million state-of-the-art training facility across the street from Veterans' Stadium.
Most of the Eagles are there, including stars like quarterback Donovan McNabb, and Frank said, "I was real nervous going in there today, just to see how people would treat me. They were awesome. It was such a relief."
Frank, a 26-year-old Salt Lake native drafted in the sixth round last April, went through the first day of camp last summer and then left, just days after signing a three-year contract with the Eagles. For days, he was largely incommunicado to all but his agent, and the Eagles declared him as "retired." He was placed on the active list a couple weeks ago.
"I get a second lease on life. Wow. How many people get a second chance?" Frank said Monday. "They could have said, 'The heck with you,' but for some reason, they wanted me back."
Coach Andy Reid called him recently. "He wanted to know where my head was. And my heart," said Frank. "He didn't need any explanations."
Frank still says of his abrupt retirement, "I don't know if I can put my finger on it. It was a combination of things. I'd been thinking about it," he said. "You can think about things and not be certain.
"Everyone thought I was out-of-my-mind-crazy," says the 1999 Mountain West Conference defender of the year and all-time Utah sack and tackles-for-loss leader who helped the Utes to a 9-3 record, MWC co-championship and Las Vegas Bowl victory as a senior.
" I thought I wanted to go in a different direction." A professional music career, or one in advertising — the family businesses — both appealed to him greatly at the time.
But he missed football also and has been training on his own for five months to get ready for Monday's re-entry into the NFL. "I thought I could be away from it, but I couldn't," Frank says.
He says he should have realized earlier that an NFL career might enhance a later music or advertising career, but he says, "You want to do what makes you happy." He calls his retirement "a healthy time being away."
When Frank finished his first day of camp last summer, "I left the squad, got my bag, got in the car and drove away. I went to New York and had a good time and toured the East Coast," he says.
Frank, wife Melissa and infant son Jackson are in Philadelphia now looking for a place to live. They're shipping their car and belongings there.
He is grateful that the Eagles are having him do off-season conditioning with the main team rather than sending him to NFL Europe for seasoning. He figures he has a better chance to avoid injury before his career gets started, and he thinks trying to play an NFL season after playing several months in Europe would have been draining, though he'd have done that if told to.
"Bottom line, I'm just happy to have a chance again," Frank says.