When looking back on a successful career, athletes typically reminisce on or relive the big plays and key moments that made it what it was. Former Texas Tech wide receiver Carlos Francis, on the other hand, still has vivid memories of the missed opportunities that could have made his career even better.
As a four-year starter from the Red Raiders from 2000 to 2003, Francis caught 216 passes for 3,031 yards and 21 touchdowns, but that’s not what he remembers most.
“I can’t tell you stats, touchdowns, yards,” Francis said. “I don’t keep up with that, but I can tell you every dropped ball I’ve had in my life. That’s just how I’m wired. I wanted to be that guy my team can count on in third-and-long or fourth-and-whatever.”
Francis said the play that sticks out to him most was dropping a would-be go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of the Tech-Texas A&M game in 2000. That would have erased a 19-15 deficit. The Red Raiders eventually lost 33-15.
“I dropped a touchdown pass against Texas my senior year,” Francis said. “If I catch that ball, that changes the dynamics of that game. For me, those are the two big ones, and Kansas, it was a pass interference call and I dropped the ball. It was my redshirt freshman year and I finally got a chance to play.
“I’m a harsh critic, only with things I do personally.”
Francis went out on top with 75 catches for 1,177 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior in 2003 in a record-setting offense quarterbacked by B.J. Symons. Taurean Henderson, Wes Welker, Nehemiah Glover, Mickey Peters and Francis each caught more than 75 balls that season.
The following spring, Francis was drafted in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders with the 99th overall pick. He scored the first two times he touched the football — on a post route and on a kickoff return.
Then he suffered a torn ACL, the effects of which he’d feel for some time.
“The injury for the first three years, the ACL, really set me back,” he said. “It did some things as far as muscle atrophy that hindered my success for the next year, but it did teach me what my learning style is. I could always get by in school and on the field. When I got that playbook in front of me, I learned how inadequate my studying really was. I learned that my procrastination level was more extreme than I thought it was.
“It’s different when you’re a guy in the NFL that’s behind and not a starter. It means you’re doing so much in practice to get noticed. Me wanting to be a pleaser and put my name on the team, I overworked myself and it hindered my health, but you have to do what you have to do to stay on the team.”
While injuries limited his production in the NFL, his experiences off the field forever impacted his life in a positive way.
“I had the chance to hang out with Jerry Rice and Tim Brown, Randy Moss and those guys,” Francis said. “The NFL was a goal for me, but never really a dream. I was trying to get to the NFL, but also trying to see if that was what I wanted to do with the next 15 years of my life.
“I was more awestruck than anything with the history of the Raiders. I got to sit in a meeting with Fred Biletnikoff, Jerry Rice and Tim Brown, definitely three of the top 10 receivers of all-time.
“I got there and figured out real quick I could never be as good of a receiver as Jerry, so success was more about being the best I could be. It would be hard, I think, for any rookie to compare themselves, especially to the greatest receiver of all time, when he hasn’t done anything. When you’ve just barely been drafted, I think it’s important as a rookie to get your short- and long-term goals in order and it’s important for you to define success for you.”
Francis decided that his definition of success had more to do with his character and he eventually decided to shift his focus to making others better.
“Tim Brown was a constant pro on the field and a constant Christian off the field,” Francis said. “Ideally, I wanted to be as good as Rice, but to have the character of Tim. Faith has always been the foundation of who I am, as far as I can remember.”
Since hanging up the pads for good six years ago, Francis has been active in full-time ministry with Texas Baptists, the General Baptist Convention of Texas and Camp Exalted. He also coaches part time at Oakridge High School in Arlington, where he lives with his wife Martisha, his son Carlos Jr., 3, and his daughter Carlee, 2.
“I get the best of both worlds,” Francis said. “I get to keep my competitive juices flowing in sports and be a positive influence to others.
“I’ve always had the passion to work with youth, teenagers and children and influence them. It was one of the best things I could do with my life, and it was something I could do for the rest of my life was to be an influence to the younger guys.”
Like several former Red Raiders including Baron Batch, Brian Duncan, Manny Ramirez, Richard Jones and Keyunta Dawson, faith was also a major part of Francis’ life during his time at Texas Tech.
“The main thing is you need to have an accountability team and accountability to yourself and to your faith,” Francis said. “I believe God is omnipresent, everywhere at once. Whether I’m in Lubbock or Fort Worth, my Christian character should never change. Who you are as a person is magnified when you get to a place like Texas Tech, a major university. It’s magnified, whether it’s arrogance, cockiness or good parts of your character, it’s magnified.
“When I represented Tech on the field, the name on my jersey was minimum compared to the name of the university I was representing. Between my faith, my family and my friends, football was fourth, sometimes fifth. I appreciate everything Texas Tech has done for me and my family.”
Francis wore the scarlet and black with many plays who were overlooked and not very highly recruited, guys that were labeled too small or too slow for the Big 12 during former head coach Mike Leach’s early years.
“All of us, we were called two-star and three-star type of athletes, and we walked around with a chip on our shoulder,” Francis said. “I think it means that we use things in life as motivation whether good things or bad things. That’s how I define ‘chip on your shoulder’ — to be great in spite of or because of.”
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