Even at 4:45 on a Monday morning, Roosevelt Franklin is the happiest cab driver you'll ever meet.

During a 20-minute ride from the JW Marriott in downtown Chicago to Midway Airport, you can sit back in Roosevelt's "King Drive Cab" car and discover that his son went to Iowa State to become an architect; that he has six grandchildren; that one of them, a granddaughter, went to Michigan State; and that his "mama" sure made a lot of sense while raising young Roosevelt.

You also can get some insight into what it's like being a cabbie getting flagged down by an NFL player.

No, Roosevelt wasn't the lucky cabbie who transported Vikings running back Adrian Peterson from the JW Marriott to Soldier Field when the NFL's leading rusher missed the team bus on Sunday morning.

And, no, Roosevelt wasn't the unlucky cabbie who allegedly got choked by Dolphins safety Jonathon Amaya, who was arrested for assault in Miami around 4 a.m. Monday.

Peterson's incident was relatively minor and most likely never will happen again now that coach Leslie Frazier has talked to him and stressed publicly that yes, "it is a big deal" when your team leaders aren't where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be.

As for Amaya, well, he apparently gave a cabbie $100 to take him beyond the driver's normal area. During the trip, Amaya allegedly became aggressive.

When the driver tried to kick him out and return his $100, Amaya allegedly leaned forward and wrapped his hands around the driver's neck, according to reports.

"Most of the time, you don't know who they are," Roosevelt says. "Most of the time, they look like normal people."

But Roosevelt seems as if he'd be the same happy-go-lucky, talk-your-ears-off-but-in-a-good-way cabbie no matter whom he was transporting.

"Mama always told me, 'Don't judge a book by its cover,' " Roosevelt said. "That's my motto. But I did one time."

It was three months ago. Roosevelt had just been stiffed out of a significant fare by a woman who didn't have the money, or at least that's what she said.

"So I let her go and I'm driving down the road and this young guy flags me down," Roosevelt said. "He's got on these baggy shorts and a gray T-shirt on. I look at him and I say, 'Oh, Lord, here comes another one. Please do not do this to me again.' "

Roosevelt pulled over. The guy gave Roosevelt the address, which, according to Roosevelt, was in the "fancy part of town."

"So I say, 'Ooh, you must have a good job. What do you do for work?' " Roosevelt says. "And he says, 'I'm a professional running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers.' "

It was Rashard Mendenhall. Skokie, Ill., native. Former Chicago area prep star who went to Illinois and was drafted 23rd overall in 2008.

Mendenhall has a condo and a lot of family in Chicago. Before he got to see either though, he got to spend some time getting to know Roosevelt, and vice versa.

"Mama always told me, 'Son, it doesn't hurt anybody to be nice and talk to people,' " Roosevelt said. "In this case, it actually paid off. Rashard gave me five $100 bills for a tip.

"Can you believe that? I love my Bears, boy. And they sure whooped up on those Vikings. Those Vikings looked like they were asleep. I can't believe they didn't get to [Jay] Cutler. Everybody gets to him. That was ..."

Wait for it. He's circling back to Mendenhall.

"But Mendenhall. I always check to see how he's doing. Great guy. Gave me 500 bucks just for talking to him and not just sitting there driving the car. He says he doesn't like taking limos. Rather ride in a cab like regular folks."

Sometimes, they don't have any choice. Sometimes, kickoff is in two hours and the team bus is gone.

"I bet that was a good tip," Roosevelt said. "Tell Adrian to ride with me next time."

Mark Craig mark.craig@startribune.com