One week after the Super Bowl, the crushing loss is no easier for Orlando Franklin to swallow.
His journey to one of the most high-profile sporting events on the planet has been remarkable – from a 15-year-old locked in a Toronto-area youth detention facility to a 26-year-old tackle protecting quarterback Peyton Manning for the highest-scoring offence in league history – and the third-year Denver Broncos player wanted to add NFL champion to the narrative.
While heartbroken by the 43-8 Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 2, the 6-foot-7, 320-pounder appreciates his season, his voyage in football – and predicts his Broncos will be back in the big game soon.
"That's why it hurt as much as it did – it had been so hard to get there," Franklin said.
"We knew we were good as an offence, but to see what we could accomplish week in and week out, it was the best offence in NFL history, and it was great to be a part of that."
This week, Franklin is in Toronto, the city where he grew up – and the one he had been arrested in for breaking and entering, robbery and possession of a stolen vehicle.
It's the same city where his mother, Sylvia, helped him turn his life around, forcing him to sign a contract with her, promising to never defy the law again. Now, it's a place where he helps at-risk youth as part of his own foundation.
Franklin's time in the NFL has been eventful since the Broncos drafted him in the second round out of the University of Miami in 2011.
There had been the total revamp of the offence for quarterback-of-the-moment, Tim Tebow.
Change came again when Manning arrived in 2012, in what Franklin calls "the biggest free-agent pickup in the history of football."
Franklin had "life-changing" surgery to permanently insert contact lenses into his eyes and change his vision entirely. The team coped with a heart surgery mid-season in 2013 for head coach John Fox and rallied to become the first team in league history to score more than 600 points in a campaign. The Broncos knocked off the New England Patriots to win the AFC title.
Franklin's family attended the Super Bowl in East Rutherford, N.J., including his mother, who travelled from her native Jamaica, where she now resides.
Franklin paid the way for his high-school coach, Willie Ceasar – the man who helped develop the youngster once he and his mom moved to Boca Raton, Fla., and helped him land a scholarship at Miami.
Unfortunately for his fans, the Seahawks dominated the game, smothering Denver's prolific offence. Franklin later apologized to Broncos fans on Twitter for the loss, and was shocked to see supporters awaiting the team when it arrived home in Denver.
"I personally have watched that game 100 times over in my head, and I wish I could take back about five plays," Franklin said. "I felt like my legs were shaking after the first snap. I got too involved emotionally. When I get that opportunity again, I'll try to keep that under control."
Franklin was asked Monday for his reaction to highly rated University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam publicly announcing he is gay, just months before the NFL draft.
"My hat goes off to him – that was a very big move that he made, not a lot of people would have done that," Franklin said.
"I think he'll be perfectly fine [in an NFL locker room]. I listened to a bit of his interview, and he talked about his teammates embracing him and understanding what he's going through. I think it will be exactly the same in the NFL.
"I don't think anyone will have a problem with it."
As for his own team, he anticipates the Broncos to challenge again next season, and thinks Manning, 37, will be back.
"I believe in my heart of hearts that if we come out and work the way we worked last year," Franklin said, "we'll be back in that game."