The Last Word is an occasional Baltimore Sun Q&A series that checks in with outgoing Maryland football and men's basketball players.
Former Maryland defensive lineman A.J. Francis has brought his big body and big personality to Miami. Francis, signed by the Dolphins to a free agent deal, reported for minicamp this week.
Francis – who grew up idolizing The Rock, Charles Barkley and Reggie White – ended his college career with 43 tackles (including four sacks) in his last season.
Known for his wit, Francis was not drafted but signed with the Dolphins on the same day – his birthday – that he got engaged to his longtime girlfriend. With friends watching, he put on a Dolphins cap, then got down on one knee to propose.
Maryland fans and the media will miss Francis, who enjoyed holding court in the dining hall. Presumably, Terps coaches will miss him, too.
Asked about the player last season, Maryland coach Randy Edsall seemed to suppress a smile. "He's fun for the reporters, but you cringe as a coach because you never know what he might -- no, I'm just kidding," the coach said. "I want guys who have personalities. You can have a personality, but you have to stay within the limits of the organization or the program that you're working with."
The Sun interviewed Francis this week:
So you got engaged on the same day you signed with the Dolphins?
There is an entire YouTube video about it. It was on Deadspin. It was after the draft and I told my family and friends that I was going to Miami and I gave a speech.
You've said you'll remember the names of all the defensive lineman who were selected while you were going undrafted. Motivation?
I've got it written down in my phone and it never changes.
You had already been living in Miami before you signed. How did that happen?
I was training down here because there is a facility here. [Former Terps] Torrey [Smith] and Bruce Campbell had trained here.
What is your biggest asset as a player and what is your approach to minicamp?
Intelligence. I rarely make mental mistakes. Everybody makes physical mistakes — bad steps and poor physical placement. Because of that, I'm able to play against guys maybe stronger and quicker than me. I've got a good grasp of the playbook. OTAs went fine and I'm trying to have a great minicamp.
You played for two Maryland head coaches. What was the adjustment like?
It took awhile for the new coaching staff to get adjusted to my personality. [Defensive line] coach [Greg] Gattuso thought I may have been misunderstood when they first got there. A lot of guys who have a personality like mine don't tend to be hard workers. That's not me at all.
You've said you might one day run for office. Baltimore mayor? Governor? Was that serious?
I mean, that's the plan. That's always been the plan. There are not a lot of states that are as progressive as Maryland. I feel like I can relate to anybody in the entire state of Maryland.
Who can step in for the Terps and keep up the banter with the media?
[Center] Evan Mulrooney. He's hilarious and he's also a good kid.