Russ Francis was recently involved in a plane crash that took his life. Francis was an American professional football player who was a tight end for 13 seasons in the National Football League (NFL). He played for the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers.
Francis finished his NFL career with 393 receptions for 5,262 yards and 40 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1993. In 2021, the Professional Football Researchers Association named Francis to the PFRA Hall of Very Good Class of 2021.
Who Was Russ Francis?
Southeast of Eugene, Oregon, Francis completed his high school education at Pleasant Hill High School after starting at Kailua High School in Oahu, Hawaii.
At 259 feet, 9 inches (79.17 meters), he set the national high school record for the javelin in 1971 as a senior. The record remained in place until 1988. Francis competed in the decathlon for Pleasant Hill as well.
Six feet six inches (1.98 meters) in height, Francis was a javelin thrower and participated in just 14 varsity football games for the University of Oregon in Eugene.
He was sidelined after three games as a sophomore in 1972 but returned to action in 1973 and 1974, missing his senior season.
In order to forfeit his collegiate status and become eligible for the 1975 NFL Draft, he enrolled at Oregon State University, a competitor institution located in Corvallis.
He prepared for the Superstars competition and was briefly a professional wrestler. The New England Patriots selected him in the first round (16th overall) and he signed in May.
Russ Francis Career
On September 24, 1978, in the Oakland Coliseum, Francis recorded a career-long 53-yard reception and 126 yards of receiving in the Patriots’ 21-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders. He had 39 receptions for 543 yards that season, which led the Patriots in receptions. Francis was selected to the Pro Bowl three times in a row (1977–1979). After the 1980 season, Francis gave up playing football professionally.
Francis has stated that two factors played a major role in this decision: first, the Patriots denied him his guaranteed bonus for making the Pro Bowl (due to his motorcycle accident injury), which prevented him from playing; and second, the Patriots attempted to revoke Darryl Stingley’s medical insurance after a hit by Jack Tatum in August 1978, which left Stingley paralyzed. Francis was Stingley’s first teammate to arrive following the hit, and he has stated that it was difficult to play after that.
Francis was dealt for a draft pick that the Patriots used to select future Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett, to the San Francisco 49ers, the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Did Russ Francis Die In Plane Crash?
Francis lost his life in a plane crash accident near Lake Placid, New York, on October 1, 2023, on his 70th birthday. The Cessna 177 Francis and Richard McSpadden, vice president of the AOPA Air Safety Institute, were operating out of Lake Placid Airport when the aircraft “experienced an emergency after takeoff.” The plane crashed into a ravine close to the airport while attempting to return to the airfield. McSpadden and Francis both perished.