Old Coug Eric Frampton not ready to retire

ERIC FRAMPTON

ERIC FRAMPTON has an infant son, a home in Hawaii, and a fresh master's degree in business from George Washington University. Yet as much as life is pointing the former Washington State standout and seven-year NFL veteran in new directions, the siren call of the field still beckons.

"I have a lot of football left in me," Frampton told Cougfan.com in a phone interview late last week. "I would love to continue playing, and I don't think I have gotten to the point where I am ready to hang up the cleats.

Frampton, 30, is a free agent looking for a landing spot.

"Some guys say they want a playoff-contender team, and while winning a championship is ultimately a goal, I just want to bring my work ethic and positive attitude and contribute."

Last season he appeared to be set for a second campaign with the Dallas Cowboys but was released in September after suffering a groin injury. The Saints then picked him up in December to bolster their special teams.

While he was with the Saints just a few weeks, the experience was memorable for a unique reason.

The Saints assigned him the same jersey number he wore at Washington State and in five-and-a-half seasons with the Minnesota Vikings: 37.

Saints fans weren't amused.

"I was getting a lot flack for being No. 37 on Twitter," he said.

In New Orleans, jersey No. 37 is hallowed. It was worn there by another Cougar, Steve Gleason, who is now waging a valiant battle with ALS.

"Steve made such an impact on the community that people wanted his number retired (and) they're saying ‘What is the organization doing giving this guy 37? We don't even know him, and he's coming in the last three weeks of the season.'

"And then Steve came out of nowhere and endorsed me by responding to one of my tweets and saying it was great having (me) in New Orleans, and all of a sudden, NOLA Nation kind of embraced me."

Frampton got the chance to meet Gleason in the tunnel after one game.

Besides the jersey number, Frampton and Gleason have something else in common. They are part of an impressive list of Cougars who have played defensive back in the NFL over the last 15 years.

The others are Lamont Thompson, Marcus Trufant, Jason David, Erik Coleman, Hamza and Husain Abdullah, Tyron Brackenridge, Wale Dada and Karl Paymah.

And now comes Arizona Cardinals first-round draft pick: Deone Bucannon.

"The DBU has sent many defensive backs to the NFL," Frampton said. "I think he's going to do really well. All of the DBs are behind him -- he's part of the Coug family, and we take care of our own."

Indeed, within moments of going to the Cards with the 27th overall pick, Bucannon had Twitter shout outs from Frampton, Trufant, both Abdullahs and more.

Like Bucannon, Frampton was a first-team all-conference selection as a WSU senior. But Frampton was drafted in the fifth-round, by Oakland, and uncertain at first whether he even belonged.

"I was pretty star struck at first, sitting in a room with Warren Sapp and all these big names.

"Those first couple practices, I was really outworking other guys in drills and remember thinking, ‘I can do this. I can compete with these guys'."

Still, the Raiders waived Frampton before the season started in what turned out to be the first step toward a great run with the Vikings. The Lions claimed him off waivers and he played five games with them before being let go. He was picked up the next day by the Vikings, and proceeded to become a fixture as one of the best special teams performers in the league.

FRAMPTON GREW UP IN SAN JOSE and said he was drawn to Washington State because of its tradition of producing defensive backs.

"It wasn't so much the location, but the Marcus Trufants, the Erik Colemans, the Jason Davids, the Husain Abdullahs -- these guys, who were serious NFL prospects, led me there."

Once in Pullman, he said, the small-town atmosphere "slowed things down for me and allowed me to focus."

The Cougar football program he joined in 2002 was far different than the one we've seen over the last decade.

The Cougars were coming off a 10-win season and by the time his redshirt freshman season was done they'd be in the Rose Bowl with another 10 wins.

That Rose Bowl season as a rookie "really set the tone for the rest of my career there. My attitude, and the team's attitude, was that it was a winning culture, and that was really cool."

After winning the Holiday Bowl the following year and posting yet another 10-win season, Frampton's final two seasons marked the beginning of the Cougars' long slump.

But the players never lost their drive – even after finishing the 2006 season 6-6 and being snubbed by the bowls.

"We didn't have a losing reputation," he said. "We had a tradition of winning, so guys worked really hard and set the bar really high."

One of his most memorable moments was the Cougars' lone conference win of the 2005 season -- a 26-22 triumph in the Apple Cup.

"It was incredible," he said. "Winning that was really a feather in my cap because it was like, hey, we're Washington State -- and going to their place and winning was huge."

Frampton said he's excited to see the program's evolution under Mike Leach.

"Watching last year, it was like we're a contender, we're competitive, we're in the game," he said. "To see how the strides Leach has implemented has led to success on field has been so amazing."

FRAMPTON RECENTLY COMPLETED HIS MBA from George Washington University, and is particularly interested in social entrepreneurship.

"That's ultimately what I want to do," he said. "It's concerned with the bottom line, but also with really making an impact on the community."

Frampton said he would like to open a business on Kauai, where his wife Eimy is from. The Garden Isle provides myriad outdoor activities -- and the weather is a huge draw.

"It's usually about 70 degrees," he joked. "When it gets to about 58, people start to get nervous." He added that his wife and father-in-law also attended Washington State, so they are creating a little contingent of Cougars on the island. And that may one day include little Josiah James, who was born on Jan. 16.

"I'd like him to (go there)," he said. "We got his first Coug onesie at the baby shower -- and we're hoping to get him some gear.

"We wear it with pride."

BLAST FROM THE PAST: In a 2008 story marking the 10th anniversary of Cougfan.com's founding, Frampton was picked the "Best Interviewee" of CF.C's first decade, with the following description: "The personable safety from the Bay Area was always gracious, articulate, insightful, earnest and upbeat." Scott Davis and Mkristo Bruce were the runners up.


FRAMPTON HAS PLAYED IN 91 NFL GAMES, 71 WITH THE VIKINGS (Dahlin photo).

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