Former Patriots, 49ers TE Russ Francis dies in plane crash

Russ Francis, a three-time Pro Bowl tight end who won a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers, died Sunday in a plane crash in upstate New York. He was 70 years old.

Francis was one of two people killed in the crash at the Lake Placid Airport on Sunday afternoon. Francis had recently purchased the Lake Placid Airways scenic tour business and was a passenger in the Cessna 177 Cardinal piloted by Richard McSpadden, who also perished. The plane experienced an emergency after takeoff and was not able to make it back to the airport.

Francis was selected No. 16 overall by the New England Patriots in the 1975 NFL Draft and finished his career with 40 touchdowns in 167 career games (148 starts) with the Patriots (1975-80, 1987-88) and 49ers (1982-87).

“On behalf of the entire New England Patriots organization, we extend our sincerest sympathies to the family of Russ Francis, who tragically passed away yesterday,” Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. “Russ was a fan favorite throughout his playing career. He was a dynamic player on the field who had an even bigger personality off it. He knew no boundaries, pushed the limits and lived his life to the fullest. Our thoughts are with Russ’s family, friends, teammates and the many Patriots fans who mourn his loss.”

Francis was a two-time All-Pro, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, a member of the Patriots all-decade team (1970s) and a member of the Patriots 35th Anniversary Team.

He caught five passes for 60 yards in the 49ers’ 38-16 victory against the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX and finished his career with 393 receptions for 5,262 yards.


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