|40 Speed:||4.6 seconds|
|Hometown/School:||Lennoxville, Quebec (Champlain College)|
"It's between a high school and college, like a prep school," Francis' head football coach, Sébastien Brière, said of Champlain College. "If you're from the province of Quebec, you need to go through us to go to university. [High school] stops at grade 11. We're a two-year program, so kid's will come here for two years like they're going to get out of grade 13 and move on to university."
Last year, his first season at Champlain, Francis was credited with 14 receptions for 284 yards, including 2 touchdowns and a 70-yard reception. So far this season, he has 6 receptions for 112 yards and one touchdown in 3 games.
"He's a very hard worker," Coach Brière said of his prized tight-end. "That kid does what he's supposed to do in school and on the football field to have success. You'll never see him slack off during practices and he'll push people to make sure that they work hard too."
Francis, who also goes by Frank, earned a spot on Team Canada, an all-star team that played in the Global Junior Football Championship, an NFL-sanctioned official event of Super Bowl XXXVIII. Claude garnered additional attention from several major colleges by attending several combines in Canada this past summer. Some even offered him a scholarship. We asked Francis to list his offers.
"Eastern Michigan, Toledo, Akron, Penn State, South Carolina," he said, "and the ones that will probably come are Michigan State, Rutgers and maybe Miami and Oklahoma State."
This season marks Claude's fifth year playing football. He played community ball for 3 years while he was in high school. During those 3 seasons, he played both defensive-end and tight-end. He has played exclusively on offense the past two seasons.
"I played hockey for 9 years, then I played basketball for 4 years. I played lacrosse for 4 years too when I was in high school. Some people told me, 'You should come and play football, it's nice'. I had a friend playing [football], so I decided to go and try."
Francis has been improving his speed. Coach Brière recently clocked him running the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds.
"On a track, I did a 4.53, and on the grass, I did like a 4.66," said Francis.
His combination of size and speed has several Division I schools interested. Francis decided to visit several of them this summer with his father. In July, he took trips to Penn State, Eastern Michigan, Toledo and Michigan State. The visit to State College occurred towards the end of the month. During the Penn State visit, Francis and his father got a chance to see the campus, the stadium and meet with the coaches. Jay Paterno is recruiting Claude for Penn State.
Francis liked Penn State enough to make the 8-hour drive again last weekend with both his mother and father to attend a practice on Friday, and the game against Central Florida on Saturday. It was an unofficial visit.
"I had a bye week and they asked me to come and watch a game. I got pretty interested, so I went. It was real nice. It's real impressive. It's a good place."
When did the Nittany Lions offer him a scholarship?
"They were talking about it this summer and then they officially offered me last weekend. Coaches Joe and Jay told me that I have a scholarship and they're going to send me the letter this week."
Francis will likely return to State College for an official visit which he believes "will probably be the first or second week in December."
The coveted tight-end also explained that he will be attending a Division I school in January, making him able to participate in spring practice at the school of his choosing.
"[Champlain] is a school between high school and college, so we can stay from two to four years. I'm in my second year. I could stay for four years if I want, but in January I know I will go in Division I, but I don't know which school yet. I can go whenever I want because I already graduated high school."
Claude is also contemplating taking official visits to a few other schools.
"It would be good to get a chance to go to Miami, South Carolina and Michigan State."
What is Miami's level of interest?
"Coach Kehoe saw me in a camp this summer. He told me to send a tape. He seemed pretty interested, but I didn't receive any response since that time. But, I didn't send a tape yet because I don't have enough plays to put in since we've just played 3 games.
"He saw me at the All Pro Camp in Kitchener and then the week after that I went to Toronto where I did just one day of a camp and he was there when we were testing. I did a 1.4 on the 10-yard [dash] which I think was pretty good. I think he liked this and he told me that he was going to send me some news, some letters during the season, but I didn't receive any yet."
How about Michigan State's level of interest?
"They sent a letter to my coach and asked us to send a highlight tape, but like I said, I don't have enough plays to make one so I'm going to wait."
In addition to Penn State, several schools have received film from Francis' first year at Champlain.
"I sent one [tape] to Akron, Toledo, South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Eastern Michigan and Michigan State. I gave [Coach Kehoe] one when I was in Toronto."
Claude is primarily being recruited as a tight-end.
"Yes, but some, I remember a coach at Oklahoma State told me maybe defensive-end and Michigan State told me once maybe a wide-receiver."
Does he have a current favorite?
"No, I don't really want to think about it. I just want to focus on my season and then I'll see in November what will happen."
Although not named as his favorite, it's evident that Penn State has a legitimate shot at signing Francis. He communicates with Penn State via email.
What does he like about Penn State?
"I really like all the organization and the campus. It's all clean and the atmosphere was nice because it's not in a big town. It's like in the country. I really like the concept of having a big university and just a little town of all students in there. It's relaxed."
The Nittany Lion coaching staff has talked to him about their pressing need at the tight-end position.
"They said the starting tight-end is a junior and then there are two tight-ends that are seniors, so they're not going to be there any more. I think there are 3 freshman tight-ends and that's about it. I read on the internet that two tight-ends just moved to fullback, so I think there are only one freshman and a junior left and maybe me if I go and another freshman because they told me that they would recruit two guys (tight-ends)."
It appears that Nittany Lion fans will have to wait a few more months to see whether or not Francis decides to help fill the void at the tight-end position next season.