Maryland defensive tackle A.J. Francis is one of the ACC’s most charismatic, engaging and memorable football players.
The reasons largely have little to do with his work for three hours each Saturday.
“My mom doesn’t know anything about football, but my mom understood while I was growing up that people were going to see me as a football player and she told me ‘Don’t be just a football player. Make people like you because of the person you are and not just the fact you play football,’ ” the junior said.
Danny O'Brien is probably the most well-known player nationally on Maryland’s roster. Kenny Tate entered the season as the Terrapins’ most clear-cut NFL prospect. Joe Vellano is the most productive defensive tackle.
And yet the loquacious Francis is perhaps Maryland’s most exuberant and enduring figures, an outsized personality even for his 6-foot-4, 295-pound frame.
The tales are endless, if only for his multifaceted interests. He performed in plays from the age of 8. He was an expert babysitter during the summer before his senior year at Gonzaga College High School in the District.
He created a “Fear The Turtle” remix the women’s lacrosse team used as its warmup music last spring, and claimed to measure the windows for draping purposes during Maryland’s visit to the White House last December in anticipation of a White House run in 2052.
On track to graduate in December, he amused himself during the team’s media day by referring to himself as “The_Franchyze,” which doubles as a Twitter handle that’s netted him more than 1,600 followers.
Not bad for a guy playing one of football’s more anonymous positions.
“You could write a book on my life, and it would be a best-seller,” Francis said. “I tell you what, there’s some stories.”
Everyone, it seems, has at least one.
Danny O'Brien sure does.
During last season’s bye week, Francis drove O'Brien home to Kernersville, N.C., and stopped at Cook Out, a Carolina-based restaurant that lives up to its name. O'Brien insisted Francis could not consume two full trays in one sitting. Two sandwiches, four sides, a milkshake and a 44-oz. drink later, Francis proved him wrong.
Of course, a fantastic fatty feast will take its toll on even the most lively of characters.