Former Gonzaga and University of Maryland star defensive lineman A.J. Francis played his first game at FedEx Field as a member of the Washington Redskins on Saturday night.
While he had played there during his college days and as a member of the Miami Dolphins, it was a special moment for the former Eagle.
“Came to games @ FedEx as a kid… played here b4 but the 1st time in Burgundy & Gold will be legendary!” he posted on Twitter before the Redskins’ 21-17 preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers.
The nose tackle finished the game with four stops and found a way to be near the ball at the end of most downs.
“My last play, I ditched the guard and got a [tackle for a loss],” he said. “It was a good play. But there is always something you can learn from. I want to make more plays and show up every play — everybody does. That’s unrealistic in football, but it’s still what I want to do.”
While Francis was constantly in the fray, he is also anxious to re-watch the game to find ways to improve.
“I feel like I judge my games harder than anybody else, I think I played good, but I know there’s stuff on tape that I can get better at,” he said.
Francis was also involved in a few stops where he didn’t directly make something happen, yet still showed hustle and indirectly affected the play.
“There was a play that I didn’t make, but it was the most athletic thing I have ever done in my life,” said Francis. “I was running after the quarterback, and he dove to the ground to slide. I didn’t want to hit him so I dove over the top of him, and in the process I flipped up to my feet. That was pretty cool. I’ve never done that before.”
The Gonzaga grad also helped force a strip sack in the third quarter when he pushed the middle of the pocket and helped linebacker Pete Robertson get an opening to sack Green Bay Packers quarterback Joe Callahan, forcing a fumble and collecting a turnover.
“Any time someone else can make a play because you helped make a play, fans might not see it, but coaches see it on film,” Francis said. “Anytime one of my d-ends says, ‘Let’s do a game here, let’s do something,’ I’m always down. If one of us eats, all of us eats. If he gets a sack because I helped set it up, I’m just as responsible for the sack as he is. He’s just going to get the stat, and he owes me a steak. That’s how we do that.”
While Francis seeks to ensure himself a roster spot after bouncing around among five teams since his NFL career began in 2013, he has already endeared himself to his teammates, including second-year defensive lineman Anthony Lanier, who overheard The Current interviewing Francis and threw in his opinion of the former Terrapin: “He did great!”
Before Saturday’s game, Francis got members of what he calls the “Bully Club” — his fellow defensive linemen — to high-five with a “two-sweet” hand gesture. This move was made famous in professional wrestling by a faction called the Bullet Club, one of Francis’ favorite things besides football, comics, politics and music.
His voice has also become a new fixture at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va. The aspiring hip-hop artist has some of his music on the team’s workout playlists.
“There are a bunch of guys on the team that love my music,” said Francis, whose artist name is FRAN¢. “My music gets played during weight lifting every day. The strength coaches like my songs — they like them, and they put them on the playlist.”
Francis will be providing his fans with more music on Sept. 8 when his debut album “O.T.A.” drops on iTunes.
Once the defensive end finished dressing after Saturday night’s Redskins preseason game, Francis — ever the renaissance man — threw his belongings into his Captain America shield backpack and headed out to perform some of his music at the Music & Models Showcase in Silver Spring.
“I’m getting ready to drive over there and perform,” he said. “Everybody else is going to go out — to the club, to kick it with loved ones. I’m going to perform because it’s what I love to do. If you want to do something, you have to dedicate yourself. A couple of guys are coming out.”
Francis and the Redskins will play their next preseason game on Sunday at FedEx Field against the Cincinnati Bengals at 4:30 p.m., and the preseason finale is set for Aug. 31 in Tampa Bay.