Former Oregon Ducks player and NFL Pro Bowl tight end Russ Francis was killed in a plane crash Sunday, according to multiple reports. He was 70.
ESPN reports the plane crashed in Lake Placid, New York. Francis was in the plane with a former commander of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds precision flight team, Richard McSpadden.
The plane rolled hard left after takeoff from Lake Placid Airport before crashing, ESPN reported.
Born in Seattle, Francis played for Oregon in 1972 and 1973, racking up 39 receptions for 588 yards and four touchdowns.
The Associated Press reported that Francis dropped out of Oregon with one year left of eligibility and didn’t play his senior season. But he reportedly was told he couldn’t be drafted in the NFL if he had any eligibility left. So, he enrolled at Oregon State University days before the draft in order to burn that final year.
He was drafted by the New England Patriots in 1975, playing six seasons and being voted to the Pro Bowl three times before retiring in 1981. But he came out of retirement the next year and played five full seasons and most of a sixth for the Niners before finishing his career in 1988 with the Patriots.
“The #49ers are saddened to learn of the tragic passing of former tight end and Super Bowl XIX champion Russ Francis,” the 49ers said in a social media post.
“We are deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of former New England Patriots tight end Russ Francis. Our condolences are extended to Francis’ family and friends,” the Patriots posted.
ESPN reports Francis had a passion for flying and recently bought Lake Placid Airways.
“Flying was my brother’s lifelong passion, and perhaps a fitting way for him to go. God speed to you my big brother!!” Ed Francis wrote on Facebook.