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Former Patriots Tight End Russ Francis Dies in Plane Crash



New England Patriots tight end Russ Francis

Former New England Patriots tight end Russ Francis died Sunday when his plane crashed at Lake Placid Airport in New York. Francis was one of the airplane’s two occupants. Further details are expected to be released later today and will be updated here.

Francis had become co-owner of Lake Placid Airlines earlier this year, according to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. The other occupant was identified as Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Senior Vice President Richard McSpadden.

The AOPA released a statement about the crash. It states:

The airplane attempted to return to the airport but failed to make the runway. Both occupants lost their lives.”

In a 2018 Petaluma Argus-Courrier article, Russ Francis said that he had a love for flying that far exceeded his feelings for football.

“The decision for going into football, a lot of it had to do with being able to pay for that addiction. That addiction was an addiction for airplanes.”

Russ Francis began his NFL career in New England. He was selected in the first round of the 1975 NFL Draft out of Oregon. He played six seasons with the Patriots (1975-1980) before abruptly retiring following the 1980 season. During his time in Foxboro, Francis was a three-time Pro Bowl selection (1976-to-1978). He was at his best on the biggest stage. In his two playoff games with the New England Patriots, Francis totaled 12 receptions for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

Legendary broadcaster Howard Cosell once famously referred to Francis as an “All World” tight end. That moniker came during a dominating performance against the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Steel Curtain” defense in 1976. Russ Francis hauled in six receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown against the two-time defending Super Bowl champions.

Russ Francis remained retired for the 1981 season before opting to make an NFL return. He was only 27-years old when he had originally announced he was done. New England traded Francis to San Francisco prior to the 1982 season. In return the Patriots received the 49ers second round pick in the 1982 NFL Draft. The Patriots used that pick to select future Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett.

Francis would play six seasons in San Francisco, winning Super Bowl XIX with of one of the NFL’s greatest teams of all time. With Bill Walsh as head coach, Joe Montana at quarterback, and Ronnie Lott anchoring the defense, the 49ers were perennial contenders during Francis’ time there. After being waived near the end of the 1987 season, he played the final game of that season back where he began, in New England. The “All World” tight end would play his final season with the Patriots in 1988 before retiring for good.

Russ Francis was 70 years old.