Russ Francis

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Russ Francis
No. 81
Date of birth (1953-04-03) April 3, 1953 (age 64)
Place of birth Seattle, Washington
Career information
Position(s) Tight End
Height 6 ft 6 in (198 cm)
Weight 242 lb (110 kg)
College Oregon
High school Pleasant Hill (OR)
NFL draft 1975 / Round: 1/ Pick 16
Career history
As player
1975–1980 New England Patriots
1982–1987 San Francisco 49ers
1987–1988 New England Patriots
Career highlights and awards
Pro Bowls

1977, 1978, 1979

Super Bowl XIX Champion

Russell Ross Francis (born April 3, 1953), is a former professional football player who was drafted by the New England Patriots in the 1st round (16th pick) of the 1975 NFL Draft. He grew up in Hawaii. A 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m), 242 lb (110 kg) tight end from the University of Oregon, Francis played in 13 NFL seasons. He retired temporarily in 1981, then played for the San Francisco 49ers from 1982 to 1986. He was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1993. Francis finished his career with 393 receptions for 5,262 yards and 40 touchdowns.

Early life[edit]

Francis began high school at Kailua High School on Oahu, Hawaii, and finished at Pleasant Hill High School in Oregon, southeast of Eugene.[1] He set the national high school record for the javelin as a senior in 1971 at 259 feet, 9 inches; the record stood until 1988.[2] Francis was also a decathlete for Pleasant Hill.

At Oregon, Francis threw the javelin and played only 14 games of varsity football for the Ducks. Injured after three games as a sophomore in 1972, he played as a junior in 1973,[3] but sat out his senior season in 1974.[4] He enrolled at rival Oregon State University in Corvallis in order to expire his collegiate eligibility and be eligible for the 1975 NFL draft.[5] Briefly a pro wrestler, he was selected in the first round by the New England Patriots, the 16th overall pick and signed in May.[6]

NFL career[edit]

New England Patriots (1975–1980)[edit]

During the Patriots 30–27 win over the Steelers on September 26, 1976, Francis caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Steve Grogan, on 4th & 2. In that same game, Francis had a career best 139 yards receiving. As a result, Howard Cosell proclaimed him as the "All World Tight End".

Russ caught a 23-yard pass from WR Harold Jackson, on a wide receiver reverse option play, in the Patriots 34-21 win over the New York Jets on 11-02-80. He caught a 12-yard pass from WR Harold Jackson, on the same wide receiver reverse option play, in the Patriots 16-13 Overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins in a Monday Night Football Game on 12-08-80.

He also had a career longest 53 yard reception and 126 yards receiving in the Patriots 21-14 win over the Oakland Raiders at the Oakland Coliseum on September 24, 1978. That year, Russ led the Patriots in receptions in 1978 with 39 catches for 543 yards.

Francis was a three-time Pro Bowl selection from 1977 to 1979.

Following the 1980 season, Francis retired from professional football.[7] Two things that Francis has said contributed greatly to this decision were, one, when the Patriots refused to give him his promised bonus for making the Pro Bowl (because his injury from a motorcycle accident kept him out of the game); and, secondly, when his roommate, Darryl Stingley, was paralyzed by a Jack Tatum hit, the Patriots tried to cancel Stingley's medical insurance. Francis was the first Patriot player at Stingley's side immediately after the hit. Francis has said it was tough to play after that.[8]

He was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a draft pick that the Patriots used to select future Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett.

San Francisco 49ers (1982–1987)[edit]

After leaving the Patriots, Francis got a job with ABC Sports. While in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, Francis interviewed Bill Walsh, the 49ers head coach. Walsh told him this was the only time in his life he would be able to play football, and that he would never get these years back and should not turn his back on this chance. Francis came out of retirement, after sitting out the 1981 season, joined the 49ers and eventually won a Super Bowl ring as a member of the 1984 49er team.[8] Francis played a key role in San Francisco's win over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX (5 catches for 60 yards). In 1985, Francis had a career-high 44 receptions.

New England Patriots (1987–1988)[edit]

After being waived by the 49ers during the 1987 season, Francis signed with his old team, the Patriots, before the season's final game.[9] His second tenure in New England was less successful than his first, however, and he played just one more season. Francis spent 1989 injured before being waived[10] and retiring.

Superstars, Professional wrestling career; retirement[edit]

Francis qualified for The Superstars final and the World Superstars in 1980 and 1981, finishing second in the 1980 final and fourth in 1981. He won the football preliminary in 1981 and set a record of 23.91 seconds in the 50 yard swimming event. The record stood until 1986 when it was broken by Greg Louganis.[11]

Francis appeared in a 20-man battle royal at WrestleMania 2 along with other NFL stars. He is the son of wrestling promoter Ed Francis, He briefly competed full-time in the American Wrestling Association after retiring from football. He also competed in the National Wrestling Alliance's NWA Hawaii where he held the NWA Hawaii Tag Team Championship one time with his older brother, Billy Roy Francis.[12]

After retiring, he hosted The Russ Francis Show from 8 AM to 12 PM on 107.7 WTPL "The Pulse", out of Concord, New Hampshire. Currently, he hosted Forever West Outdoors from 4 PM to 6 PM on 1400 AM KODI, out of Cody, Wyoming. In 2015, he was inducted into the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame as a contributor.

Championships and accomplishments[edit]


In 2000 Francis challenged long-time Democratic incumbent, Patsy Mink for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district. Running as a Republican, Francis was defeated, winning 35.97% of the vote to Mink's 61.59%.


  1. ^ "Russ Francis – Football". Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2012-03-01. Retrieved 2013-02-07. 
  2. ^ "Lists: High School: All-Time: Men". Track and Field News. 2005-11-15. Retrieved 2013-02-08. 
  3. ^ Newnham, Blaine (January 25, 1974). "Russ has a choice". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 1D. 
  4. ^ Conrad, John (October 16, 1993). "Francis comes full circle in return to Eugene". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. p. 4D. 
  5. ^ "Sneaky Russ Francis has chance to play in pros". Tuscaloosa News. Alabama. Associated Press. January 26, 1975. p. 12B. 
  6. ^ "Francis the wrestler signs with Patriots". Lewiston Evening Journal. Maine. Associated Press. May 16, 1975. p. 22. 
  7. ^ Tosches, Rick (January 18, 1982). "Russ Francis: no regrets about early retirement". Bend Bulletin. Oregon. UPI. p. D1. 
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ "Sports People; Francis Rejoins Patriots". The New York Times. 24 December 1987. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  10. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE: PRO FOOTBALL; Morgan Out for Season". The New York Times. 17 November 1989. Retrieved 2010-12-06. 
  11. ^ "The Superstars". The Superstars. Retrieved 2013-02-08. 
  12. ^ a b "NWA Hawaiian Tag Team Title History". Solie's Wrestling Titles. Retrieved 2009-04-25. 

Total Patriots Encyclopedia

External links[edit]