Russ Francis – San Francisco 49’ers #81

San Francisco 49’ers # 81

Russell Ross Francis was born on 3rd April 1953 in Seattle, Washington.

He played college football for the Oregon Ducks but only managed to play fourteen times for them through injury.

In the 1975 NFL Draft, Francis was selected sixteenth overall by the New England Patriots, where he spent the first six years of his career (and the last two).

In 1976 he had his career best game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, with 139 receiving yards, including a 39 yard touchdown. This resulted in an impressed Howard Cosell – who was a sports journalist with ABC Radio and ABC Sports – proclaiming Francis the “All-Worlds Tight End”.

In 1978, he had a career long 53 yard reception and 126 receiving yards against the Oakland Raiders. In the same season, he led the Patriots in receptions, with 39 catches for 543 yards. He made the Pro Bowl three consecutive seasons between 1977 and 1979.

In 1980, Francis announced his retirement, citing the reasons that the Patriots refused to pay him a promised bonus for reaching the Pro Bowl and also that it was tough to carry on playing after seeing his team mate paralysed after taking a hit against the Oakland Raiders. Francis was traded in exchange for a draft pick to the San Francisco 49’ers.

He took a job working in broadcasting with ABC Sports and ironically, it was during an interview at 1981/82 season’s Pro Bowl with 49’ers head coach Bill Walsh, that he was convinced to resume his playing career after a two year hiatus. Walsh told him in the interview that 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.

He played for the 49’ers for the next six years and was an integral part of the team that won Super Bowl XIX in 1985 – led by the great Joe Montana at quarterback. He posted five receptions for 60 yards in that victory over the Miami Dolphins.

He was waived by San Francisco at the end of 1987 season and went back to the New England Patriots. His second spell with the Pats was not as successful as the first however and he was waived by them at the end of the 1989 season following an injury and he decided to retire from the game.