Gronk & Russ Francis

Gronk, Gronk, Gronk.

I know.  Everyone loves Gronk.

But in 1975, before the NFL outlawed hits across the middle, heck, before the NFL outlawed virtually all defensive hits by safeties and DBs, including the one by Jack “the Assassin” Tatum that paralyzed Daryl Stingley for life, the Pats drafted a guy that was just like Gronk.

His name was Russ Francis, Oregon. 6 foot 6 240 lbs and he could PLAY.  

From 1976-78 inclusive, he was All Pro.  In 1975, he averaged 18.2 yards per reception on 35 receptions.  Francis would catch between 30 and 44 balls a year–but his career yards per reception was 13.4.  

In the 1970s, they RAN the ball.  They didnt throw it that much.  

The Pats made it to the playoffs or contended for the playoffs every year Russ Francis was there.

He played til he was 35.  And after the Pats, he went to the 1980s 49ers, where he helped them win the Super Bowl in 1984-85.  

So could Russ Francis have been Gronk in this pass happy era?  

I like to think so.  At his peak, if he’d gotten 100 receptions a year, under modern nfl rules, definitely.  

He was the same size as Gronk.  He had the hands and the speed of Gronk.  He made Steve Grogan look like a good QB.  And he won a Super Bowl in a great system with Joe Montana.  At age 32.  

Which we dont even know if Gronk will get to in the league.

–art kyriazis



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