Former Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois is headed to FAU where he will try to resurrect his career. [Tribune News Service] Hide caption
FORT LAUDERDALE — Deondre Francois didn’t know whether he would play Division I college football again after he was dismissed from Florida State in February.
The former star Seminoles quarterback, who the South Florida Sun Sentinel learned on Monday plans to transfer to Florida Atlantic for his redshirt senior season, gave his side of the story to teams and coaches after an ex-girlfriend twice made domestic violence allegations against him. Although neither one resulted in any charges nor an arrest, the second was an Instagram post that went viral. Francois was kicked off the team the next day.
Schools he spoke to listened to him, but there wasn’t a lot of willingness to take a chance on him.
“Most schools were skeptical, but FAU stayed consistent,” Francois told the Sun Sentinel on Tuesday. “A couple of their coaches on their staff helped me understand that my legacy isn’t over, and that I could come back from it.”
And that’s what Francois aims to do with the Owls. He wants to make the most of the opportunity coach Lane Kiffin has given him to walk onto the team.
“I’m ready to get back on the field,” Francois said. “Just excited, thankful, blessed to have this opportunity to play football.”
Francois, who appeared to be a promising quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 2016 before a knee injury cut his 2017 season short and the incidents marred the rest of his time in Tallahassee, shared with the Sun Sentinel what he told potential suitors as he looked to find that new football home over the past three months.
“It was difficult because I had to wait for the situation to calm down first,” Francois said. “A lot of people didn’t know that the video was from a year ago, and that she posted it because I didn’t want to be with her anymore. A lot of schools and coaches thought that it was a recent video, so I had to make that clear.
“She was (blackmailing) me about it, saying that ‘If you leave me, then I’ll post the video.’ So basically if I just would’ve stayed put there and played my role, I would still be playing football at Florida State. The fact that I wanted to move on to stop dealing with her, she didn’t like that. She was going to find a way to hurt me.”
The video appears to capture audio of a physical altercation while the recording device in the room is aimed away from the man and woman involved, so they can’t be seen during the argument. The woman asks the man to stop hitting her in the face while he refuses, saying that she’s throwing things around the room.
The text accompanying the video read, in part: “For 2 years I have been in a domestic situation with (Francois). I thought I loved him and thought he could change for the better but it has gotten worse.”
With the video released on Feb. 2, Francois was dismissed from FSU on Feb. 3.
In a statement, Seminoles coach Willie Taggart said: “As we build a new culture and foundation for FSU football, we have high expectations for all of our student-athletes and we will not shy away from those high standards of conduct. We are moving forward as a program.”
Taggart had previously told Francois he needed to make better decisions after Tallahassee police suspected the quarterback was dealing marijuana and put him under surveillance early in 2018. A search of Francois’ apartment turned up 17 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia less than two feet from the quarterback’s bed. He said the drugs belonged to his girlfriend, according to TPD records. Francois was not arrested and allowed to participate in a pre-trial diversion program.
The domestic dispute thrust Francois in the spotlight again 10 months after the marijuana incident.
On Feb. 4, the woman who posted the video and later deleted it off her Instagram account made a lengthy statement on her account apologizing.
“I should have never posted a video from our past situations that were already handled,” she wrote. “The motive of the video was to scare him not to ruin anything he had going for (himself). The sounds you hear in the video are me throwing things and hitting him. I should have never made it seem like he was hitting me.”
The account itself was later deleted, but a screenshot of the statement remains on Twitter.
“In that video, of course I said some harsh things, some things that I should’ve never said, but you can tell it was a setup — because who puts a phone (up) and records an argument?” Francois asked. “Of course, what I said was very disturbing, but anybody that’s being beat up or that needs help would scream ‘help!’ They’re not just going to say ‘stop.’ They’re going to scream ‘stop!’ They’re going to get police involved. You can tell that the post was just because she was mad at me because she posted it on Instagram; she didn’t take it to police.”
Later, Francois clarified: “What I said in the video, combined with the caption of her post, made (me) seem like someone I’m not. If someone is getting beat up or abused in a video, I would think they would scream for help and cry out or record the person who is abusing them. Not set the phone up on a dresser and provoke someone by vandalizing their property while recording them without their knowledge.”
Francois doesn’t feel any animosity toward FSU or Taggart for the quick hook, but feels the decision was rushed because of his situation as a first-year coach coming off a 5-7 season at a storied program.
“He didn’t fight for me as much as he wanted to because of the situation he was in,” Francois said. “Basically, coach Taggart kicked me off the team because he was put in a tough situation because we just came off a bad season, it’s his first year at a new school.”
Francois added that he thinks under former coach Jimbo Fisher, who now leads Texas A&M, the incident would’ve been investigated more thoroughly over time. Later, Francois added: “I understand completely why coach Taggart dismissed me.”
It was the second time that his ex-girlfriend accused him of domestic violence. In January 2018, he was cleared after she accused him of domestic violence after he originally called the Tallahassee Police Department to remove her from his apartment, according to a 911 call. Francois said on the call she was damaging his property, including a pair of flat-screen televisions.
“Although I’ve never been arrested, I’ve been in a lot of situations at Florida State that were so pointless that the media can turn it and make someone look like a monster,” Francois said.
He finished his career at FSU completing 481 of 829 passes (58%) for 6,291 yards, with 21 interceptions and 36 touchdowns.
Walking on to FAU, Francois hopes to earn a scholarship by the fall season. Currently looking for an apartment in Boca Raton, he plans to enroll for the later summer session, which begins on June 22. He will pursue a Master’s degree after he already graduated from FSU with undergraduate degrees in social science and sports management.
“I’m going to go down there, be the hardest worker I can be,” Francois said. “Just bring a winning mentality, just go there and win games, and more importantly, affect the community in a positive way.”
Francois said he did community-minded things in Tallahassee, such as speak at elementary schools to inspire local youth. He hopes to continue to do the same in Boca.
Francois cut his hair recently as a symbol to himself of maturity and a new beginning.
“I’ve learned from the last couple of months,” he said. “I’ve just grown from it.”
Originally from the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Francois moved to Miramar during elementary school and Orlando during middle school. He was a four-star recruit out of Bradenton IMG Academy before enrolling at FSU.
Francois says he has family in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that are excited to have a short drive to FAU to get to watch him play in the fall.