Noble Franklin, who coached football and track and field at Saddleback and Santa Ana Valley high schools since the 1980s, died Friday. He was 58.
Franklin was found unconscious in the parking lot at Saddleback, according to Santa Ana Unified School district chief communications officer Deidra Powell. Franklin’s sister, Dorothy Williams, said Franklin had heart issues and had a stent installed around two years ago.
Williams said her brother was taking good care of his health.
“But you sometimes don’t know what damage had already been done,” Williams said. “He ate top-of-the-line healthy and he exercised every morning. He was in good health, but sometimes you just never now.”
Franklin was first hired as an assistant coach at Valley in 1981. He became a district safety officer in 1991 at Saddleback, where he would also become an assistant football and track coach.
Franklin is survived by wife Doris Franklin and their daughter Lashelle Shelby.
At Valley, Franklin coached some of the Orange County’s all-time great sprinters like Walter Steen and Elliot Dunning.
Teddy Baker, one of Orange County track's all-time great sprinters at Saddleback in the mid-‘80s, competed against the Franklin-coached sprinters at Valley. But Baker, whose marks of 9.8 in the 100-yard dash and 10.77 in the 100 meters in ‘85 rank among the faster times in county history, did experience Franklin’s coaching in elementary school and in their southwest Santa Ana neighborhood.
Franklin, living on Highland Street, a street on which Santa Ana High and USC star sprinter Clancy Edwards also grew up, organized football games and track meets against other blocks.
“Noble painted track lanes in the street,” Baker said.
Franklin was an outstanding football player at Valley. He was a top receiver for the Falcons when they won a CIF championship in 1974. Dick Hill coached that team that featured Myron White at running back, Wilbert Haslip at fullback and linebacker and Fred Morales at quarterback. Terry Franklin, Noble’s brother, also was a receiver on that ’74 Valley team that is often considered one of the better teams in Orange County football history.
Williams said her brother, who was starting to coach children of men he had coached in the ‘90s, loved coaching.
“We was there for whoever needed him,” she said. “The kids, the parents, they knew he was that special source for them.”