Maryland defensive lineman A.J. Francis (#96) looks on after making a defensive play against North Carolina State on Oct. 20, 2012. (Mandatory Credit: Nick Wass/Associated Press)
With just 61 days until the Maryland football program opens the season on Sept. 5, TerrapinStationMD will be running a series based on past Terrapins. We’re going to look at the most talented and/or popular player to wear the number and analyze their time in College Park. We’ll start in the upper 90s and work our way in descending order. If you think of a player that had a big impact and is also associated with that number, leave a comment below.
Next on the list in our countdown is No. 96. Former defensive tackle A.J. Francis was one of the more productive and entertaining defensive linemen to come through College Park in quite some time.
The Severn (Md.) native played for both former coach Ralph Friedgen and current coach Randy Edsall before leaving Maryland.
During his time in College Park, Francis appeared in 49 games and totaled 149 tackles (61 solo & 20.5 for loss), 9.5 sacks, and seven passes defended. The Gonzaga product’s best season as a Terp came in 2012 when he recorded 43 tackles (23 solo & 9.0 for loss), four sacks, and five passes defended. Francis was also part of a unit that held East Carolina to just 32 rushing yards and one rushing first down in the 2010 Military Bowl.
Francis may not be the most athletic defensive lineman in the world, but he is a very hard worker and possesses brute strength in the trenches.
After his four-year career with Maryland concluded, Francis went undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft. However, he did find a home as he was signed by the Miami Dolphins on April 30, 2013. On Sept. 1, 2013, the New England Patriots claimed Francis off waivers, but released him on Sept. 7. Just three days after being cut, the former Terp was signed to the Patriots practice squad. On Nov. 27, the Dolphins signed Francis off the Patriots practice squad.
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His career has been riddled with injuries and some unfortunate luck.
Francis has also made headlines off the field, but not a particularly negative way. During his time at Maryland, he recorded a rap song called “Fear The Turtle,” which was set to the beat of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black & Yellow.” The Maryland women’s lacrosse team even used it as their warm-up song.
In April, Francis made headlines when he said he was applying to be an Uber driver.
When it was all said and done, Francis was one of the most likable guys to come out of Maryland in a while. This was the type of player that was a hard worker and could get after the quarterback, despite his size. Francis continues to be one of the true good guys and one that all Terp fans should continue to root for.