Miami Dolphins defensive lineman A.J. Francis poses inside his vehicle on Monday.
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Word on the street is Miami Dolphins reserve defensive tackle A.J. Francis has good acceleration, an excellent motor and a high ceiling in his 2014 Dodge Charger.
He’s an Uber driver.
Francis is under contract to earn $ 510,000 this year in his third NFL season, but paychecks don’t start coming until July, and it’s uncertain he’ll make the team. He wanted some extra spending money, so in April he became a driver for hire with Uber, making $ 40 to $ 50 an hour.
“I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket,” Francis said following the Dolphins’ offseason practice Monday. “Where I’m from, when you have a job, where are you when that job is over?”
Team officials have voiced no objection regarding Francis’ moonlighting.
“Yeah, I was kidding him about Uber or Yuber or whatever you call it,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “It’s a little outside the box, but so is he.”
The outgoing Francis said the job suits him because he enjoys meeting people. He hopes to pursue a broadcasting career after football, so he polishes his interviewing skills by videotaping conversations with passengers, and posts them on YouTube.
“He’s a talker,” said his wife, Tatiana, who married Francis in March. “He’ll talk your ear off about anything.”
Francis recently finished his third semester studying for a master’s degree in international security and economic policy, and he sounds like an economist talking about Uber’s impact on the market.
“Everywhere Uber is, it thrives,” he said. “The resistance comes from taxi drivers who don’t want to get beat out, because they know they can’t compete. Which is funny to me, because in no other aspect of American culture are you allowed to stifle capitalism.”
Because of his studies and the Dolphins’ offseason training schedule, the flexibility Uber offered was appealing to Francis. He tries to work at least three days a week, in shifts of four to five hours. He said he’ll stop driving for pay once training camp starts.
NFL veterans who worked in the offseason were common a few decades ago, but in an era when even bottom-of-the-roster players make half a million dollars a year, Francis is a throwback.
No Uber rider has recognized the 6-foot-5, 330-pound Francis as a professional football player, which doesn’t surprise him. He was undrafted out of the University of Maryland, has spent much of his pro career on practice squads and has yet to play in an NFL game.
“People just think I’m some big dude in a nice car,” he said. “I tell them at the end of the interview who I am, and the shock on their face is really funny.”
Tatiana said friends and family are also surprised when they learned of her husband’s offseason job.
“I admire him for it,” she said. “You always have to have a hustle, you know? Football is something that doesn’t last forever.”
Tatiana said Francis is a good driver, and he agreed, saying he has never been ticketed.
“Just like I’m a world-class athlete, I’m a world-class driver,” he said with a grin. “If I wasn’t 330, Tony Stewart should watch out.”
Uber jobs have taken Francis from Boca Raton to South Beach, and he has waited in vain for the chance to drive someone to another state. He would love more time to chat up a passenger.
He has given lifts to a couple of his teammates, and has been teased by most of them. Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake said he has yet to hire Francis as a driver.
“I have a car, so I probably wouldn’t,” Wake said. “But I can’t knock anybody’s hustle. He’s an interesting guy.”
Coach Joe Philbin said he would recommend Francis to anyone in need of a ride.
“Definitely,” Philbin said with a smile. “But I would suggest that they bring some earplugs along.”
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