When it comes to accolades like the one he received two weeks ago in State College, Tyrone coach John Franco would probably rather go the route of former Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes, who never accepted a nod to the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame until he had retired.

As Franco learned when he accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame, putting it off might be wonderful for his own schedule, but not so much for those hoping to give him his due.

“When you’re still coaching, you’d rather just wait until you’re done with everything,” Franco said. “(One of the organizers) said the way you’re going, we may all be dead and gone before you’re even retired, so let’s get this so at least we can enjoy it.”

Kolten Miller was honored recently by the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.

Franco received the award at a banquet held at the Penn Stater. The chapter also recognized outstanding individuals from each of the teams under its umbrella, awarding them for their play on the field, their contributions to the community, and their work in the classroom. For Tyrone, that award went to senior Kolten Miller, who along with his three-way play on the gridiron earned a near-perfect 780 on the English and written language portion of the SAT.

“It’s a really nice way to get a kid like him recognized because he wasn’t going to get the team MVP award,” Franco said. “He was a two-year starter and he earned 15-something on his boards. You just don’t see kids like that anywhere, not just in sports.”

On the field, Miller ran for 320 yards and had 109 yards in receptions. He also scored a pair of touchdowns and had an interception on defense.

Off the field, Miller serves as the senior class president.

Franco said the entire experience is something positive for players and their families.

“It’s a really neat award,” he said. “They started honoring kids in high school Mark Wyland’s senior year (1998), because he got the award for us. It’s typical Penn State, first class in everything. Their big thing is, they’re promoting college and high school football and the idea of student athletes.”

Franco’s Lifetime Achievement award comes as he prepares for the fifth year of his second stint as head coach at Tyrone. During his first go-round, an 18-year term that lasted from 1994 through 2011, Franco’s teams won eight District 6 championships, advanced to the PIAA semifinals four times, played for a state championship three times, and won it all in 1999.

In 22 seasons in the borough, Franco has amassed 211 victories, the most at Tyrone by more than 100 games.

Along with coaching the Golden Eagles, Franco has also had stops as a head coach at Altoona and Penn Cambria. He was an associate head coach at Bishop Guilfoyle in the early and mid-1980s and an assistant at St. Josephs in State College after leaving Tyrone.

Franco said the chapter had approached him about receiving the award a year ago, but his schedule, which included preparing to coach in the 2022 Big 33 game, wouldn’t allow it.

“I’m always uncomfortable with those type of awards,” he said. “I was very grateful for the award. It’s nice when you can get recognized by your peers.”

Franco first came to Tyrone in 1994 when the program was fighting through one of its lowest points. From 1989 through 1993, the program had won only eight games before finishing 1993 at 5-5 under Coach Tom Miller.

The board opened the coaching position following that season, soon after Franco had been let go at Altoona. He went 5-5 in 1994 before taking the Eagles to the PIAA western finals in 1995, posting a 12-2 record. By 1996, Tyrone was playing in the state championship game.

Franco left Tyrone in 2011, but returned in 2019, and by 2020 the Eagles had won the Mountain League championship and were playing for the District 6 3A title.

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