Russ Francis was a 13-year NFL tight end who died in a recent plane crash. He was originally from Oregon, where he was a member of the Oregon State University football team. During his 13 seasons in the NFL, he played for two different teams: New England (Patriots) and San Francisco (49ers). He played in 393 games (39 starts) and caught 5,262 yards for 40 touchdowns. In 1993, he was inducted into the Oregon State University Hall of Fame, and in 2021, the Professional Football Researchers Association named Francis to the PFRA Hall of Very Good Class of 2021.
Russ Francis grew up southeast of Eugene, Oregon, and finished high school at Pleasant Hill. He started at Kailua High School in Oahu, and in 1971 he set the state high school javelin record, which stood until 1988. He also took part in the decathlon at Pleasant Hill. Francis was 6-foot-1 and weighed 205 pounds. He only played in 14 of Oregon’s 16 varsity football games. He was out of action for three games as a freshman in 1972, but returned in 1973 and 1974 and missed his senior season. Francis decided to forfeit his college eligibility and enter the 1975 NFL Draft. He was drafted by the New England Patriots in the first round, 16th overall, and signed in May. He trained for Superstars and also had a brief stint as a professional wrestler.
Russ Francis Plane Crash
In a game against the Oakland Raiders on September 24th, 1978, Francis caught a career-high 53-yard pass and had 126 yards receiving in a 21-14 win for the Patriots. He finished the season with 39 catches and 543 yards, leading the team in receptions. He was selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 1977 to 1979. Francis retired from professional football after the 1980 season. He said two things played a big part in his decision. First, the Patriots didn’t give him a guaranteed bonus for his Pro Bowl selection (because of his motorcycle accident) which kept him out of the game. Second, the Patriots tried to take away Stingley’s medical insurance after Jack Tatum hit him in August of 1978, leaving Stingley paralyzed. Francis was the first player to arrive after the hit and Stingley said it was hard to play.
Russ Francis was killed in a Cessna crash near Lake Placid Airport, New York. He was 70 years old at the time of the crash. The plane, operated by Richard McSpadden Jr., vice president of the Air Safety Institute, had an emergency after taking off from Lake Placid Airport. The plane then went down in a ravine near the airport while trying to make its way back to the airport. Both McSpadden Jr. and Francis were killed. Stay tuned to get the latest news.