Justin Francis, one of the Patriots’ seven undrafted rookies, isn’t walking into his new situation with the team blind. He’s got several people here he can lean on for support.
The 6-4, 275 pound defensive lineman from Rutgers played with Devin McCourty and Alex Silvestro, and is also good friends with New England’s newest coaching assistant – Steve Belichick.
“Steve’s been a great friend for me for quite some time,” Francis said, noting that the two met in math class several years ago and struck up a quick friendship. “He’s guiding me along, keeping me on a good, straight path; can’t ask for more than that.”
Does he now see his friend as one of his bosses?
“I do actually. And it’s kind of weird,” Francis said, his wide smile taking over his face. “But like I said, he’s a good friend and I know he’s never going to direct me in the wrong path or anything, so I take that and I keep that. I’ll always respect him, I respect his job and I respect him as a friend as well.”
Bill Belichick spent a good amount of time on the Rutgers campus in recent years, as Steve was on the lacrosse team for four years and a walk-on long snapper with Greg Schiano’s football team last fall. Bill Belichick and Schiano have a professional relationship that has led to several Scarlet Knights coming to New England.
Knowing Steve and Bill, Francis does see the similarities, noting that Steve is steady, like his famous father.
As he starts learning the playbook – which he called “ginormous” – Francis is getting encouragement from Steve, and talks with Silvestro and McCourty.
“I sit and talk with Alex Silvestro every day. I haven’t run into Devin yet, but I was talking with him on the phone last night, he’s doing the same thing, staying in my ear, I’m going to sit down and pick his brain a little bit, picking Alex’s brain every day, doing everything I can to better myself and better this organization,” he said.
Last year for Rutgers, Francis played in all 12 games, with 60 tackles, 5.5 sacks, an interception, fumble recovery and five pass break-ups.