Where Are They Now
April 3, 2012
Trenton Franz was one of the most accomplished student-athletes in University of Wyoming Football history. During his career from 2000-04, he made his mark at the UW as both an outstanding football player and an outstanding student. A native of Fort Collins, Colo., Franz started at center for the Cowboy Football team for 43 consecutive games, beginning with the fifth game of his redshirt freshman season of 2001 against New Mexico through his final game as a Cowboy, the 2004 Pioneer Purevision Las Vegas Bowl.
His senior season of 2004, Franz was elected a co-captain by his teammates and he helped lead the Cowboys to their first bowl appearance since 1993 and their first bowl victory since 1966. The Cowboys defeated heavily-favored UCLA by a score of 24-21 in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl.
Franz earned First Team All-Mountain West honors in 2004. He was also named to the Outland Trophy Watch List as a senior. The Outland Trophy is voted on by the Football Writers Association of America, and honors the top interior lineman in the country each season. Prior to earning First Team All-Conference honors as a senior, he received Honorable Mention All-Mountain West honors as a sophomore and junior.
Academically, he was one of the most honored football student-athletes in school history. Franz was one of only 24 NCAA Division I players in the nation to be named First Team Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) in 2004. He was also selected by the National Football Foundation as one of its 15 national finalists for the Draddy Trophy (since renamed the Campbell Trophy), which honors the top football scholar-athletes in the nation each season. The Campbell Trophy is often referred to as the "Academic Heisman". The 15 finalists in 2004 were selected from every level of college football -- NCAA FBS, NCAA FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA levels. Each finalist was awarded an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.
He earned Academic All-Mountain West and Mountain West Scholar-Athlete honors all four years of college, and he was named First Team Academic All-District VII by CoSIDA three times.
Upon completing his bachelor's degree in civil engineering at UW, Franz continued his education at Princeton University.
After graduating from Wyoming with your bachelor's degree in civil engineering, you pursued your graduate studies at Princeton University. What can you tell Cowboy fans about your graduate studies since leaving UW?
Trenton: I was fortunate enough to graduate with a master's of science in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton University in June 2007 and then received a Ph.D. in January 2011 entitled "Characterizing Dryland Surface Hydrological Dynamics Using Ecohydrological Modeling and Geophysical Observations". My areas of expertise are dryland ecohydrology and hydrogeophysics. Currently five papers based on my dissertation chapters are published in the scientific literature with several more in the works.
While at Princeton, I believe you were involved in working on some projects overseas. Tell us about those projects and the experience you gained from those opportunities?
Trenton: Yes, I spent about six months total in central Kenya over my five years at Princeton. I stayed at the Mpala Research Center, which is run by Princeton University (http://www.mpala.org/). I worked closely with the Laikipia Maasai, who are primarily a pastoralist and beekeeping society. The Maasai face similar problems to the American West with land degradation and access to limited resources like water and quality forage. In addition, infrastructure is very limited, so the Maasai are not well equipped to deal with natural and potentially anthropogenic changes to climate variability. The overwhelming majority of Maasai I met are very gracious and generous people. One story that will stay with me forever is my wife Mary was lucky enough to visit on my last trip to Kenya in 2009. My field assistant's wife Christina gave my wife a beaded walking stick as a present. I later found out that the beads used to make the stick were equivalent to about two months salary for Lekutaas (my field assistant)! In addition to the present, we were invited in their house for tea. As I was sitting on their bed, I started to hear some creaking noises. Unfortunately, it was too late and the bed collapsed in the middle leaving me sprawled out on the ground and everyone laughing. Throughout my six trips to Kenya, I believe I broke nearly a dozen chairs and one Maasai bed. A word of caution for any offensive lineman traveling abroad, watch out for furniture especially those made for the native population.
Where are you living now and where has your career taken you?
Trenton: My family and I are currently living in Tucson Arizona. I am working as a research assistant professor on the COSMOS project funded by the National Science Foundation. The project goal is to help improve weather forecasting by setting up a network of realtime soil moisture sensors across the continental USA. My job the past year has been installing and calibrating a cosmic-ray neutron probe, which has taken me to over forty states (http://cosmos.hwr.arizona.edu/Probes/probemap.php). In fact, I was in Laramie last August putting a probe in the Snowys for the project. In addition, I do a lot of computer modeling looking at the interaction of particles (mostly protons and neutrons) with different land cover conditions to help improve the quality of the data that we get.
Your family has grown since your college years at Wyoming. Tell us about your family and their ties to the state of Wyoming.
Trenton: Mary and I were married in June 2007. Roselyn Mae Franz was born in February 2010 and we are expecting another girl in July this year! Mary is from Gillette. Her parents Bill and Diane Monahan are avid Cowboy fans and attend every home game with her brother Tom, who is a junior at UW. Her sister Annie graduated from UW in 2007 and is a nurse in Gillette.
Speaking of family, your parents John and Glenna, were great Wyoming fans and always traveled to watch you play. Do they still follow the Cowboys, and how are they doing?
Trenton: Of course! My parents are still great Cowboy fans and attend as many games as they can. One of my Dad's favorite activities is to attend the Cowboy Joe Auction and try to win the quarter long broadcasting with Dave (Walsh) and Kevin (McKinney).
Do you still follow the Cowboys when you can, and do you stay in touch with any of your teammates or coaches?
Trenton: Yes, I recently attended the New Mexico bowl game against Temple. Mary and I switched over to DIRECTV just to get The Mtn. to watch the games live in New Jersey and Arizona. I talk to several of my old teammates regularly, in particular my old roommate Marshall Schaap, who is living in Tampa. In February this year, I attended Jason Karcher's wedding and got to see a good number of old teammates.
Your final season playing football at Wyoming in 2004 was a season that Cowboy fans still talk about. That team recorded Wyoming's first-ever victory over a team from the SEC, defeating Ole Miss in Laramie, and earned a berth in the Las Vegas Bowl. What are your memories from that season?
Trenton: That season was all about believing in each other and persevering. As with most seasons, there are highs and lows but we were able to overcome many obstacles that really solidified us as a team. This was best represented by the triple overtime victory at UNLV to get bowl eligible. Corey Bramlet was injured during the Air Force victory and was unable to play that week. J.J. Raterink stepped in and played a tremendous game to keep up with the high-scoring shootout. It was that type of adversity that allowed us to believe in ourselves and overcome the long odds to beat a talented UCLA team.
You and your teammates entered the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl as heavy underdogs to UCLA, but defeated the Bruins 24-21. It was Wyoming's first bowl victory since 1966. As one of the four co-captains of that team, what special meaning did that win and that season have for you?
Trenton: It was a validation of our team's tremendous effort over the past year and the seniors' efforts over the last five years. That five-year stretch (2000-2004) was one of the rockiest in Cowboy history. We went from a perennial favorite in the WAC/MWC to a team that couldn't catch a break and win a football game. As we lost confidence in ourselves, we started a difficult positive feedback cycle that encompassed everyone in the program and led to a culture of losing. Not just losing football games but more importantly self-confidence. That bowl victory represents to me the return of Cowboy greatness on the field and within each athlete. Despite the many difficult times over my career, I am truly grateful for the experience, as it has no doubt shaped the man I am today.
What are some of your other favorite memories from your days at Wyoming?
Trenton: My favorite memories are probably joking around with my teammates over the years. Spending that much time with anyone allows you to really know everyone's foibles. Offensive linemen are a pretty tight group, so there is always a good amount of good-natured harassing especially when it came to shortcomings with the opposite sex in social settings. There were some classic memories rekindled at Jason Karcher's wedding last month. Hunter Richards is truly a treasure trove of hilarious anecdotes.
Your senior year, you earned First Team All-Mountain West honors and were a First Team Academic All-American. You also were one of only 15 national finalists for the National Football Foundation's Draddy Trophy (now called the Campbell Trophy), which is commonly referred to as the "Academic Heisman". What do you believe were the keys for you to be able to achieve at such a high level both athletically and academically?
Trenton: While I have been blessed with a great deal of talent, I feel my greatest asset is fortitude, which I credit my parents John and Glenna for instilling in me. I was never the biggest or strongest player on the field or smartest person in the classroom, but I believe my ability to focus my mind and see things through has set me apart in both areas.
You started 43 consecutive games at center during your college career, which was every game you played in as a Cowboy. You also did this with a bad back that many times limited your practice time. The game of football obviously meant a lot to you. Can you share what made the game of football so special to you?
Trenton: Like many athletes, I believe my sport was a great test of both mind and body. Playing in games is such a small portion of the total effort it takes to compete at the college level. It takes a tremendous amount of focus and dedication to get up everyday in the offseason and go to practice, film, class, weight lifting, etc. It was a great challenge to myself during my transition into manhood to endeavor through the numerous obstacles and setbacks that I faced. But with great sacrifice came great rewards and knowledge that will last throughout my lifetime.
What do you remember about some of the coaches who recruited you to Wyoming and coached you?
Trenton: I remember that I had to earn their respect through my actions on the field and in the weight room. I was never a great vocal leader, but I always gave my best to earn the respect of my teammates and coaches. With that respect came a lot less yelling from the coaches, which greatly improves your quality of life. Having played for three different O-Line coaches, O-coordinators, and two head coaches there are few memories that stand out. Most notably, I will never forgot showing up to camp my freshman year and having Coach (Rusty) Burns and Coach (Jim) Marshall immediately hand me a football and tell me to start snapping as I was way undersized and too smart to play offensive tackle. Having never played a down of center prior to getting to Wyoming, it was an interesting fall camp learning how to snap and block first-string defensive tackles like Jeff Boyle.
Have you been able to stay involved in the game of football in anyway?
Trenton: Not as much I would like. I am an avid fan of the Cowboys and Denver Broncos, go Peyton. Hopefully I will be able to help out coaching at some point. I often talk to my older brother Derek, who is a high school coach in Missouri, about O-Line schemes.
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