Washington Redskins veteran defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois has had his share of shining moments throughout a lifetime of football that has seen the highest level of competitive play from a trip to Super Bowl XLVII to winning an NCAA National Championship. The youngest of four children, and one of the nation’s highest rated defensive linemen coming out of Miami Carol City Senior High School, Jean Francois played college football for the Louisiana State University Tigers from 2005-2008.
Ricky helped the 2007 Tigers achieve a 12-2 record, defeating the Ohio State University Buckeyes in the BCS National Championship Game. Jean Francois’ dominating performance stifled the Buckeyes offense, earning him the title game’s defensive MVP honors.
Ricky recently became a father for the first time when his son Ryan came into the world in April 2016. Ricky will be the first to admit that the experience has impacted him tremendously. Ricky and I talk about fatherhood, football, and how he went to help in Haiti after the destruction of Hurricane Matthew.
Art Eddy: From the time you entered the NFL to the present what has football taught you about yourself?
Ricky Jean Francois: It taught me that I can make it through rough times. It taught me that I could do critical thinking. Football helped me become the person that I am. It gave me personality. It gave me the world that I needed to create. It just game me the environment that I needed to create around myself and around my family.
Everything can always be positive and not negative. Negativity is easy to sneak in anywhere. When you got a positive mindset and a positive environment around you; you have no other choice then to accept positive to keep coming. Most people might not like it, but I love it.
RJF: Not coming from class and going straight to a practice. You are waking up at like 7:30 or 8 o’clock to make it into the facility to all the way to 6 or 7 o’clock at night. You got to use to staying inside one building. I am used to coming at practice at two and being out at six. Go to study from six to whenever. Then the next day I had to go to class again.
Now you go to a classroom that is inside a football facility. Same thing you did at school you are doing now, but it is just different. I had to get adjusted to it. Most people may say the speed of the game, but it was everything. Yet it was really that I didn’t have to go to class anymore, but the classroom is now the football classroom.
AE: What is your favorite part of game day?
RJF: Game day itself. Just seeing the environment. Just seeing everything going on. Seeing the people. Seeing the media. Seeing the mascots and everyone running around trying to get right. Seeing people tailgate. People are out there barbecuing. People are out there with RV’s. People are playing bean bag throw. You just see so many things. You got to take a glance at everything.
As long as I have been playing football I never had a chance to enjoy that myself. One day I will. No time soon, but one day I will get a chance to do that. Taking that drive to the stadium is something you just have to take in. You don’t know when football will be over. You won’t be able to take that drive anymore. You won’t be able to get on the bus with your guys. You got twenty police officers trying to escort four buses to a stadium. Those things are the ones you have to keep memorable. Once you get away from that there are not going to have police escorts. It will be you in a car in traffic trying to get to a certain point.
AE: Talk about the great work you did in Haiti to help the victims of the recent hurricane.
RJF: It was a blessing and an opportunity in disguise. Dan Snyder asked me and Pierre (Garcon) if we wanted to go to Haiti. We were like sure. He had a lot of supplies and other things that he wanted to donate to help down there with. After the Baltimore game the next morning I am on a jet. It was Mr. Snyder’s jet so a salute to him for letting us borrow it.
When you got there it felt like ground zero. Everything that you would see on CNN, MSNBC, or the local news you see through a screen. Now you are there to see everything that happened. I understand that people think it was a disaster in Port-au-Prince. Mostly south of that in Haiti really got damaged and really got hit. So everything that got hit outside of Port-au-Prince had to come there. So roads were crowded and the hospitals were packed.
It was something to remember, but at the same time it was something that humbled me. I could have been born in this. My father was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I could have been born there, but I wasn’t. I was born in the States. The things that made them smile or kept their spirits up brings something over you. It makes you a better person. You see life from a different aspect. Most people will take things for granted like water and air. When you are over there and first hit that ground those you take for granted here you won’t take for granted over there.
AE: Switching to fatherhood now, what are some of the core values you look to instill in your child as grow up?
RJF: Just want him to be respectful. Just want him to have his own mind. Let nobody lead him a certain way. If it wasn’t a decision that you made or a thought that you put into your mind you shouldn’t do it. I want to build an environment around him that is positive. Everything that I do in my house I want him to see me doing it.
He can say that his dad is a hard working guy. My dad made sure he did this. My dad made sure he did that. So when he grows up he can hold my values. At the same time when he starts his family he can have the same set of values. He would see his dad do the work. He would see his dad clean up. He would see so many things that it is programmed into him that I want to make sure that whatever I do is perfect. I know that people mess up here and there, but in his eyes I am trying to be the best dad he can actually have. Now whenever that day may come and I don’t want it to come soon when I finally close my eyes I won’t have to worry about my son because knows what he is doing.
AE: What were some of the first few thoughts that popped into your mind when you found out that you were going to be a dad?
RJF: What was so crazy about it was that when my girl first told me that she was pregnant we first thought it was a girl. So we kept calling the baby Zoe. So I was like okay I am having a girl. Now don’t get me wrong I was happy. My girl was pregnant. I love her to death. We are going to have a girl name Zoe and we were going to have a daddy’s girl.
One day I came home from practice and I saw a balloon. It was blue. I was sitting there thinking why do I got a blue balloon in the house? And then it read it’s a boy. I asked my fiancé if one of her friends came by and said that they are having a boy? She was like no the doctor made a mistake. We are having a boy. I just sat there for two to three minutes looking at a balloon. A simple balloon. I was like man, I am actually going to have an image of me. And the funny thing was that the only thing that I told my fiancé was that I want him to look like me, but I want him light skinned. It is funny I want him to look like me, but I want him light skinned.
AE: How do you balance work and family?
RJF: You got to find time to do it. At first it is as not as easy. Nobody ever said that raising a child would be easy. So for me when I get home the first thing that I want to do is go to him. I want to be with him. I want to play with him. Take him outside so he can see different things like trees and hear the noises. I want to be with him for the majority of the time.
I give him to his mom at a certain point to watch some film, but at the same time I am still thinking about him. Throughout the duration of the day when I realize some of the things that I am doing I am doing it for him. I am not doing it for myself anymore. At one point doing it for myself had a meaning to it, but doing it for your son has a whole different meaning. I know that it is hard to try and balance both, but every great mother and father will always find a way to balance it and put the child as number one.
AE: What is the advice would you give to new dads out there?
RJF: Here is my advice to all of my guys. I understand that we are not used to making bottles. We are not used to cleaning diapers. Get used to it. I understand some people look at it as a woman thing, but it is not. When I first had my child I told my girl that I need to learn. She was trying to do the majority of the work, but you want it to be half and half. I want him to see me do it. I want him to see me make the bottles. I want him to see me get his clothes, wash his clothes and fix his food.
Just do everything because you got to help out your girl. If you take half of the work load it will pay off. A lot of guys like going out. We like hanging with the fellas. What is more important? You raising your image or you going out to do what damn near every young person does every Friday and Saturday? Now you are staying home and you are being with your son or your daughter. You can read them books. You can teach them how to ride a bike or fly a kite. So just imagine the moments you take to do that instead of going to the club. The club is going to be there. The fellas understand. A lot the guys on my team understand. They will ask, but most of the time I am at the house. I am with him. At the end of the day when he grows up I want to look at him and say that I did a good job as a father.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: What family movie do you think you and your family will love to watch together?
RJF: I will say Home Alone, but I don’t want him to get any ideas. (Both laugh.) One movie that I want him to see because I am a cartoon fanatic is Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
AE: Do you guys have a favorite song that you all like to sing to your child?
RJF: It is a song called 7 Years. Even before he was born I was sitting next to my fiancé and either play it or sing. Everything in that song tells you how you want life to go. I still play it to this day. I can’t wait until he gets older and he can understand it.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
RJF: I don’t know where we would be, but I would love to just be with my son and fiancé, soon to be wife just out somewhere having a picnic. Just want to be out having a picnic and enjoying ourselves. Running around. Hoping to have a dog by then. Just be out in the open and have a good time.
AE: You are a sneakerhead like me. What is your favorite pair of kicks?
RJF: Nike Air Mags. They are my favorite kicks right now. I am still on the hunt for those shoes. I will not quit until I get a pair in my hand.
AE: You own several Dunkin Donuts stores. What is your favorite donut?
RJF: Glazed. I know people put bacon and creams and other stuff on them. Just give me the glazed one and I am happy.
Follow Ricky on Twitter at @Freakyjean99