Missy Franklin didn’t expect a thing.
In fact, last Friday, she almost didn’t come to school.
“It was the assembly for the senior gift giveaway,” Franklin said. “I had absolutely no idea that anything was going to happen. I was even thinking about not going to school that day — so my best friend and my mom had devised this whole plan to make sure that I was at school.”
But the Olympic hopeful was in for quite a surprise.
First, she was called up to the front of the assembly, bringing raucous cheers from her classmates.
Then came the big one — Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker entered the room to wish the swimmer luck.
“I had to be here,” Decker told the crowd. “On behalf of the Denver Broncos, I came here to wish her the best of luck this summer, and you better bring back that gold for us. Good luck!”
If the cheers were loud before, they were deafening when Decker arrived.
“I was so shocked,” Franklin said, mentioning that she had met Decker once before at the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame banquet. “As soon as they said his name, all of the girls just went crazy. Eric Decker in a room with 1,000 teenage girls? It just doesn’t get louder than that. I was so excited to see him. I was so happy he was there. And that was honestly one of the nicest things that anyone has done for me. For him to come and take his time right before he had a flight, to come and just say a few words, it meant the world to me.”
Franklin, who is a “huge Broncos fan,” said Decker’s presence even caused a few classmates to bend school rules a bit.
“It’s really funny, my mom was laughing because technically at school our phones are supposed to be in our lockers,” she said. “But she said as soon as he walked in, 500 phones just snapped up to take pictures and video.
“It was great.”
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Franklin first set her sights on the Olympics when she was just 12 years old.
“I qualified for Olympic trials when I was 12 years old, and I swam there when I was 13,” she explained. “That was for the 2008 Olympic trials. I knew I wasn’t going to make it then because I was so young, but it was still so exciting for me and I loved it so much. I remember I was driving home from Omaha just thinking, ‘Four years from now I want to be back here and I really want to have a good chance at making this team.’ So to come back four years later and have that happen would just be incredible.”
Trials for the 2012 games run from June 25 to July 2 in Omaha, Neb.
But she said her dream truly became a realistic goal either last summer or the summer before.
“The summer before I had nationals and I competed at the Pan Pacific Championships,” Franklin said. “That was a huge eye-opener for me. Then last summer with World Championships really got me on the international scene, I saw how much I loved it and how much fun we had. I think that’s when I really realized that, you know what, London could be really realistic for me, and it’s something that if I keep working really hard for it’s something that I could possibly achieve.”
Franklin said she tries not to think too far ahead, so she hasn’t gotten nervous about potentially swimming in the Olympics quite yet.
She said she tries to live one day at a time, but that hasn’t stopped her from getting excited about London.
“My goal is honestly just to keep the pressure off of myself, go out there and have fun and know that I’m ready.”
In the meantime, the lifelong Broncos fan said Decker’s surprise visit got the swimmer even more excited about Denver’s upcoming season.
“I’ve always been a Broncos fan, but I’ve always been a Colts fan, too,” Franklin said. “So right now I kind of have the best of both worlds. I absolutely love Peyton (Manning). I think he’s incredible, and the fact that he’s playing for us is so exciting.”
Franklin, who has a Broncos jersey, baseball hats and a handful of T-shirts, said football is a big deal in her family.
“My dad was actually drafted for Canadian football, so he’s a huge football fan,” she said. “Always growing up with him loving football and having Sundays, it’s just a big football day, which is great. It makes it a really special day and brings the whole family together — it’s exciting. I remember growing up with that, so now it’s fun because I get into it as much as he does. I’m trying to learn as much as I can from him. I’ve definitely grown as a fan the past few seasons.”
So will the Olympic hopeful head to Sports Authority Field at Mile High any time in 2012?
“I love going to games,” she smiled. “I love the whole atmosphere of it. I’m really excited for this season.”