Zaire Franklin, a linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts, exudes big-brother vibes both on and off the field. He passionately guides new players to the franchise, warmly welcomes young fans with his open and giving approach, and provides hands-on guidance to young women through his foundation, Shelice’s Angels.
All of his mentorship experiences prepared Franklin to become a dad in 2022, when he and his wife, Khandice, welcomed their son, Kairo, into the world.
Franklin credits much of his professional success to mentorship he received. Today, he pays that back. “When I see young people in situations I was in, I just want to give them a helping hand,” Franklin says. “I don’t want it to be as hard for them as it was for me.” Franklin’s philosophy of relying on community and paying it forward extends beyond the football field to his parenting style.
Both Franklin and Khandice are from the East Coast — these college sweethearts met at Syracuse University — and don’t have family members here in the Midwest. They credit the Colts community with helping them as they began their parenting adventure. Khandice has found the Colts family to be a safe space to share parenting challenges and seek advice and guidance from parents in similar situations.
Franklin also recognizes the Colts players in preparing him for fatherhood. They guided Franklin on how to balance the NFL and family, but also offered helpful tips on supporting Khandice through her pregnancy, and how to be present at home. “When I get home, they [Khandice and Kairo] want to see me,” Franklin says. “They don’t want to see the issue that the team has going on. I have to put that aside for them.”
Khandice and Franklin set up some family non-negotiables to keep them connected and grounded through their extraordinary life experiences. They prioritize family dinners and prayer time. “Kairo loves to pray — he thinks it’s so funny, for some reason,” Franklin says.
Franklin’s dedication as a parent stems from the loving home environment he remembers as a child. Raised by his mother and grandmother, Franklin saw firsthand the sacrifices and support a parent can give to a child, and credits those gifts with much of his success. “Obviously they loved me unconditionally and believed in me relentlessly,” Franklin says. Sadly, both his mother and grandmother passed away within a few months of one another when Franklin was just a teenager. Ten years later, he is still honoring them.
Today, Franklin feels a sense of duty to pass on the lessons he learned as a child to Kairo. “[My mother and grandmother] taught me to dream without limits, and for me, it’s just trying to give him that same inspiration,” he says. “It’s taking the different things they gave to me and pouring it into Kairo.”
Whenever they can, the Franklins travel back to visit their friends and family on the East Coast. They rely on these important moments with family to help them remain centered. “I think that’s something that you underestimate in this football life,” Franklin says. “Yes, you have a lot of resources that you didn’t have before. But sometimes it’s that family, that village that made you who you were, that you can lean on when you need it.”
When they’re back in Indianapolis, the Franklins love going to Indiana Pacers games, visiting the Indiana State Fair, petting the elephants at the Indianapolis Zoo, spending time in downtown Carmel, and cheering on the Colts.
Raising a Colts fan might be second nature for them, but Franklin still says it all comes back to family time. “When I was younger, we couldn’t afford to go to Eagles games, but we were tuned-in as a family, every Sunday, following along,” he says.
Kairo went to his first Indianapolis Colts game last fall, and Khandice is looking forward to bringing him to more this year. “If I can point out Daddy, he gets excited about the games,” Khandice says. And if Franklin’s adoration of his son is any indication, we know Dad will be making some tackles just to impress his “little man.”