Francois Waiting for “Once in a Lifetime Opportunity”

by Reese Becker

Photo courtesy of Ross Obley/Florida State athletics

Many know the story of Deondre Francois.

The former four-star quarterback committed to Florida State out of IMG Academy and started 25 games for the Seminoles. What’s unknown is his future. Should the former FSU star have any say in it, it will be in the NFL Draft.

Francois, after tearing his patella tendon against Alabama in 2017, came back in 2018 and then transferred to Hampton. There, he set records for best completion percentage and most passing touchdowns in a single season as a Pirate.


At IMG, Francois learned from former FSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke. Under Weinke’s guidance, Francois blossomed.

“It (IMG) was a good experience and a good opportunity to play under such a prestigious coach and somebody who has done it and played the position,” Francois commented. “From the playbook aspect, our playbook at IMG was very advanced, so when I got to FSU, it made it much easier for me to grasp the playbook. We ran some of the same plays with Weinke that (Jimbo) Fisher ran at FSU.”

Once at FSU, Francois made an immediate impact, passing for 3,350 yards and 20 scores while leading the Seminoles to an Orange Bowl victory and top-10 finish as a redshirt freshman. He was named ACC Rookie of the Year before being injured in the opener of his sophomore season. Looking to make a national title run, Francois went down late in a 24-7 loss to Alabama in what would be Jimbo Fisher’s final season at FSU.

“He (Jimbo) helped me out a lot, teaching me the right things to do and how to be a quarterback,” Francois exclaimed. “That came along with being the starting quarterback at FSU. You couldn’t lack in the leadership area.”

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The injury changed Francois and made him mature in a way nothing else could have. It also made Francois more appreciative of football.

“When I got injured, it was my first injury so it was tough at first, but I got a chance to really focus on school and focus on other parts of my game — the mental aspect,” he said. “I turned that negative into a positive.”

Francois returned to lead the ‘Noles in 2018 — the first season under new head coach Willie Taggart. Francois passed for 2,731 yards and 15 scores in a 5-7 season. Following the season, Francois announced his intention to transfer to FCS Hampton — a far cry from the big-time lights of Florida State.

Transfer to Hampton

“The only thing they (Hampton) expected of me was to come in there and be a good person and be a leader and be a good teammate and that’s what I did,” Francois remarked. “They just wanted a quarterback to come in and play good football and be a good teammate and I accepted that.

“It humbled me. I learned a lot. It doesn’t matter what school you are at; there are good players all around the country in college football,” Francois lamented. “Some players get better opportunities than others and it humbled me. It made me appreciate everything a lot more.”

Francois was invited to the Hula Bowl after his good season at Hampton to showcase his talents with not only the best collegiate players in America but also from around the world with NFL-caliber coaching.

“The Hula Bowl was fun. It was a great opportunity, great hospitality there also; they put us in a great hotel,” Francois said. “Great practices, there were a lot of great players and great speakers there, a lot of great events. We went sight-seeing a lot so it wasn’t all football. It was fun. The game turned out great and my team ended up winning. Coach Rex Ryan did a great job.”

Draft Prep

At Hampton, Francois was again able to show off the talents that made him a four-star prospect coming out of IMG. Now, as he awaits his future, an issue in the form of COVID-19 arose. Due to the virus, and subsequent shutdown, the HBCU combine that Francois intended to compete at in his home state of Florida was canceled.

“I had Maryland’s Pro Day set up. I had Hampton’s Pro Day set up and the HBCU combine but everything got canceled,” Francois said. “With that being said, I had to record my Pro Day, so I recorded the throwing session and I recorded all the field-work. I made two separate videos and sent them out to all 32 teams and just have to go from there and control what we can control.

A teammate of Francois’ at FSU, running back Cam Akers is predicted to be a third to fourth-round pick in many mock drafts. Francois and Akers still talk.

“Cam and I talk a lot; that’s my guy,” Francois exclaimed. “We played together and fought together; that’s a brother of mine.”

Now back in Florida, Francois awaits what’s next. Francois was heavily scouted in the Hula Bowl and CGS camps before the virus. Francois plans to watch the draft with his family and close friends.

“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. You get one chance to be drafted. I’m just controlling what I can control. It’s all in God’s plan.”

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