Former Super Bowl Champion and KODI Radio Host Russ Francis Dies in Plane Crash
Written by Jessi Entel on October 2, 2023
Francis, and longtime partner, Jaclyn Ryan, lived on a ranch between Cody and Powell in 2016. During that time, Francis hosted a radio show on KODI called Forever West Outdoors where he shared about his love of Wyoming and the great outdoors.
In 2020, Francis and Ryan moved back to Connecticut, but would visit the Cowboy State often.
On one of his visits to Cody, Wyoming, Francis stopped by the KODI studio and chatted with the late KODI “Daybreak” host, Darian Dudrick, to share about his life as a former NFL All-Pro tight end.
During the interview, Francis shared that him and Ryan decided to return back east because he thought he would have a job opportunity with ESPN to cover college football and potentially NFL’s Monday Night Football. Unfortunately, when the 2020 pandemic struck, those plans didn’t come to fruition.
During his interview with Dudrick, Francis shared about his time on KODI Radio as the host of “Forever West Outdoors”.
“It was a thrill for me because I love the outdoors, I grew up in the outdoors in Hawaii,” Francis said. “There’s just not too many places like Wyoming. Wyoming is very special.”
Francis also shared how much he missed living in the Big Horn Basin, sharing how he hope him and Ryan would one day return.
“I feel like this is home,” share Francis in his 2021 KODI Radio interview.
Francis was involved in the Cody community as a member of the Cody American Legion and was also a judge at the Cody Wild West Chili Cook-off in 2016.
Many years before coming to Cody, the three-time Pro Bowl tight end was a member of the San Francisco 49ers when they became Super Bowl champions in 1985.
During his successful 14-year NFL career, that spanned from 1975 through 1989, Francis caught 393 passes for a total of 5,762 yards and made 40 touchdowns.
Growing up, Francis lived the island life in Hawaii. His father was a wrestling promoter, who worked with celebrities like Andre the Giant.
Francis only played college football for one year at the University of Oregon before being selected in the first round of the 1975 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. During his year at the University of Oregon, Francis ran track with the legendary Steve Prefontaine.
In 1980 and in 1981, Francis was on a TV show called “Superstars” that featured the top ten athletes from ten sports who competed in events that were not their own. Being the true athlete Francis was, he ended up setting a records in 23.91 seconds in the 50-yard swimming event.
Once the Super Bowl Champ hung up his cleats, Francis ventured into the world of radio, hosting a show in New Hampshire. He also competed in a few professional wrestling events.
In 2015, he was inducted into the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame as a contributor. Francis also dabbled in politics, unsuccessfully running for congress in Hawaii during the 2000 election as a Republican.
According to the Daily Enterprise, Francis recently bought the Lake Placid Airways scenic tour business at the New York airport. Kate Naiman, who had a son with Francis shared on Facebook that, “To Russ, flying was like breathing … it came naturally and he lived for it.”
“He used to fly his P-51 Mustang to practice and land in the stadium parking lot and really piss off Bill Walsh,” shared Naiman, who was shattered by the passing of Francis. “There will be some comfort down the road in knowing that he died doing the thing he loved most, but not today. Not today.”
Also passing away in the crash was the senior vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Richard McSpadden.
Francis was 70 years old.