October 25, 2014

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Browns: Rookie Francies took long and winding road to pros

Jason Sehorn and Daylon McCutcheon played cornerback in the NFL for nearly a decade each. Dwight Lowery started 10 games at corner for the Jets as a rookie last season.
They have nothing on Coye Francies, according to Keith Burns, who coached them all in college.
“Coye may be the best of that group,” Burns said recently by phone. “He will make people stand up and notice. I believe Coye will be a star.”
Francies appreciated the nice words, but wasn`t getting ahead of himself.
“I haven`t thought about it too much,” he said earlier this month during rookie minicamp. “If the Lord blesses me with the opportunity to be a big star, I`ll try to take full advantage of it. All I can do is work hard each and every day.”
Francies was one of the Browns` three sixth-round picks in the NFL Draft. He`s 6-foot-1, 185 pounds and plays with fluidity, but expectations are never too high for a late-rounder, especially one from San Jose State.
Francies is a special case.
He went to junior college, then Oregon State. But when a gun registered to him was found during a routine traffic stop, he was thrown off the team in the summer of 2007.
“I had no choice,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said in an interview with The Oregonian. “If you have a gun, you`re gone.”
The weapons charge was dismissed, but Francies remained without a school. He did have a letter of recommendation – from Riley.
“It meant a lot,” Francies said. “Although the circumstances occurred, he still realized I was a good person with a good heart and a hard worker and a pretty good football player.”
Francies wanted to play for San Jose State, but needed to convince coach Dick Tomey in a meeting. He brought his mom and his Pop Warner coach, who just happened to be a Sacramento police officer.
“His mom opened up and his coach stood beside Coye,” said Burns, the San Jose State defensive coordinator and secondary coach. “Coye was open about it. He made a mistake.
“The guy I saw for two years was a guy you`d want to have your kids look up to.”
Burns said Francies was never a problem. He was particularly impressed that Francies didn`t complain about having to take care of his own room and board before he was on scholarship. Francies also earned an award for his work on the scout team while he sat out a season because of the transfer.
“That showed maturity to me,” Burns said. “The guy was serious about making a contribution. That went a long way with me.
“Coye deserved a chance and made the most of it.”
Francies started for San Jose State for a season, recording 69 tackles, three interceptions and three pass breakups. Lindy`s magazine called him arguably the most underrated cornerback in the draft.
“The Browns got a steal,” said Burns, who coached with Riley at USC for five years. “He has all the attributes and all the talent to be a really great player.”
Francies` athleticism was evident immediately at minicamp. He`s long, lean and smooth, and looked good in a drill in which the cornerback jammed the receiver, then turned and ran.
“He has really good hands and I like some of the things he has been able to do in terms of movement,” coach Eric Mangini said. “It looks like he has a little savvy in the way he has been able to disguise some of the coverages.”
Burns said Francies won`t be awed by life in the NFL and that his biggest adjustment will be lining up in a zone. Francies said he played bump-and-run every play at Oregon State and about 75 percent of the time at San Jose State.
Francies, who ran a mediocre 4.63-second 40-yard dash at the combine, may also be asked to add some muscle. For now, he`s taking everything in stride.
“Nothing really surprised me,” he said. “The biggest obstacle to overcome is the time difference from here to California.”
Francies doesn`t have to look far for inspiration. Lowery was a teammate at San Jose and made an immediate impact for Mangini and the New York Jets after being drafted in the fourth round.
“He made me think I could be a real good player at this level,” Francies said. “I just need to master all my skills to be better at this level, because the talent level is a lot better.”
“Coye`s taller, faster, longer, more physical,” Burns said.
Pro Football Weekly said Francies had second- or third-round talent, so it`s likely that the three colleges and one gun played a role in his draft position.
“We do extensive background checks on all the draft picks,” Mangini said. “I have a great comfort level with any of the players that we`ve taken, in terms of going through the process and understanding the situation.”
Francies was polite and friendly when approached by reporters, but wasn`t interested in a Barbara Walters interview.
“I don`t too much think back,” he said. “I just try to move forward. I try to make the best of all my blessings.
“When I think back, I get caught up in stuff that`s in the past.”
Francies did concede that the circuitous route to the NFL has given him extra incentive to prove he`s not a bad guy.
“Absolutely. I think that`s going to be over me for maybe years to come,” he said. “I know I`m a good person with a good heart and I know that everyone`s not perfect, including myself. I know I have to be more aware of my surroundings and continue to make decisions like I did in the past three years.”
Those choices helped lead him to the Browns. Now, he must prove he belongs.
“I love the fact this story might have a happy ending,” Riley said.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.