Super Bowl champion Russ Francis has died at the age of 70 in a plane crash, his family has confirmed.
Francis was flying with Richard McSpadden, a former commander of the US Air Force Thunderbirds, on Sunday when their plane experienced an emergency shortly after takeoff from Lake Placid Airport. They were unable to make the runway while attempting to land and were both killed.
“My older brother Russ Francis was just killed in an airplane crash in Lake Placid, New York,” Francis’s brother, Ed, said in a Facebook post on Sunday. “Flying was my brother’s lifelong passion, and perhaps a fitting way for him to go. God speed to you my big brother!!”
Francis became interested in flying after his retirement from the NFL and owned Lake Placid Airways. He was also a qualified helicopter and airplane pilot.
The New England Patriots selected Francis in the first round of the 1975 draft, and he was named to the Pro Bowl on three occasions during his time with the team. In 1982, he joined the San Francisco 49ers, with whom he won a Super Bowl in January 1985. He returned to the Patriots in the 1987 season before retiring the following year.
“We are deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of former New England Patriots tight end Russ Francis. Our condolences are extended to Francis’ family and friends,” said the Patriots in a statement on social media.
As well as his interest in aviation, he had spells as a professional wrestler and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Hawaii in the early 2000s.
“He was a dynamic player on the field who had an even bigger personality off it,” said Patriots owner Robert Kraft in a statement on Monday.