Terps’ Francis shoots from the lip, and wouldn’t have it any other way

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“This little kid that has the whole room basically watching him and we’re all focused on him,” said Keith Francis, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. “He has a way of getting people’s attention, and he’s been doing it his whole life.”

And he did so in a family filled with strong people. A.J. Francis estimated he isn’t “even in the top five personalities in my family,” which includes a direct, plain-spoken father who already has come up with a way to lay the groundwork for A.J.’s future entry into pro wrestling: Making his character the illegitimate son of The Rock. The two, after all, bear a slight resemblance.

Achieving all of his varied aims - a brief NFL career, a stint in wrestling, graduating from law school, running businesses, becoming Maryland’s governor - will require a competitiveness Francis already possesses.

“My dad gave me five dollars once because I lost a game of Mortal Kombat and I threw my controller into the wall and cursed, and I was 5 years old,” Francis said. “I said ‘This… sucks.’ I was 5 years old. My dad said ‘I’ve never been more proud. We don’t accept losing. Losing is not an option. Losing is the worst thing in the world.’ “

Being boring or one-dimensional might be a close second, though it’s an accusation Francis probably will never face. Whether declaring himself “El Zombito Bandito” during an on-campus game of Humans vs. Zombies in the spring or flexing like Ric Flair during the Terps’ uniform unveiling in August, there’s always a facet of his life certain to entertain as he shares it with a Twitter following he eagerly interacts with.

“The only thing I ever won was freshman all-ACC and honorable mention freshman All-American, but that was two years ago when I had like eight followers on Twitter,” Francis said. “Nobody really cares about that stuff. It shows people must have an interest in me as a person because I’m not Danny O'Brien and I’m not Joe Vellano and I’m not Kenny Tate, but people still care what I have to say.”

And he’ll keep saying what’s on his mind, creating new stories and a promising path for himself along the way.

A.J. is A.J., and A.J. is never going to go off,” Vellano said. “Twenty-four hours a day, A.J. is A.J. It could be middle of camp or it could be the middle of winter. He knows his facts and he knows his stuff, and you’re never going to throw it by him. He’s a character. He’s definitely one of a kind.”

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