A few weeks ago I wrote a preview of Southern Mississippi’s 2013 season, and happened to tag their likely punt returner, a guy by the name of Francisco Llanos. I put the article out on Twitter, and within an hour, I got a response, including a YouTube video of said punt returner repeatedly burning defensive backs in practice or making the coverage units looks silly. I engaged in some banter with him and it turns out there is far more to the story than I originally thought.
Francisco played his high school football at Chamberlain HS in Tampa, starting at receiver in his senior year. The problem was, the Chiefs didn’t throw the ball often, or well, competing just 44 passes in 13 games. Even so, Francisco still managed to catch 12 passes for 215 yards and a pair of TDs (courtesy of MaxPreps.com). The lack of production kept him off the national radar, and he failed to receive any FBS offers at the end of his senior year. At this points, many kids would have been disillusioned, but many kids aren’t Francisco Llanos, who followed his high school position coach to Southern Mississippi, where he walked on.
After redshirting as a freshman, Francisco saw some more playing time in his second year, but didn’t catch a pass. However, the first time he touched the ball as a Golden Eagle, he returned a kickoff 87 yards for a score against Tulsa.
In his sophomore year, he caught 5 passes for 132 yards and 2 TDs (including one from 90 yards out) against Marshall, but only went 10-173-2 for the year. Last season, his junior year, he finally saw regular action, catching 20 passes (joint 2nd on the team) for 226 yards, and was relatively productive for one of the worst passing attacks (and teams) in the FBS. Then something unforeseen happened – Francisco went from backup receiver to Twitter superstar.
Odds are, you’ve already heard of Francisco, either reading about him or following his exploits on Twitter.
As it turns out, the drive that led Francisco to walk on in Hattiesburg, has pushed him to a higher calling – he wants to play on Sundays next year. As it turns out, he plans on taking every available opportunity to make his dream come true. Goal one – he’s starting at receiver and returning kicks and punts this season – has been accomplished, at least until fall camp. Goal two is to make himself a social media superstar when so many other athletes are receiving negative press for their comments.
Instead of detailing his weekend exploits or offering polarizing political commentary, Francisco is approaching everyone, and I mean everyone, who can help him achieve his goal. He’s sending film to scouts, asking agents for advice, appearing on radio shows – anything that can make Francisco Llanos a household name. He can play, the game tape tells us that, but his use of social media to make himself better known shows not just a drive to succeed, but intelligence and maturity beyond his years. Other young recruits and NFL hopefuls could learn well from this young man. How can you not root for him?
Follow Francisco on Twitter to see for yourself.