FOXBORO -- If you like Dunkin Donuts . . . and you like football . . . New England isn't a bad place to be. That might explain all the smiling from Ricky Jean Francois in his first back-and-forth with Patriots reporters Thursday afternoon.
"Believe me," he said. "That was one thing that popped in my mind. As soon as I got off the airplane it was like every block I hit I saw a Dunkin Donuts. I was like I came to Dunkin Donut heaven up here."
Jean Francois, a veteran defensive lineman who signed with the Patriots this week, is the proud owner of 30 Dunkin Donuts franchises. He said he hopes to one day own 50. He doesn't own any near the company's original location in Quincy, Mass., but his locations are concentrated along I-95 from Savannah, Georgia to Hilton Head South Carolina, he explained.
About three years ago, Jean Francois said he started to realize the importance of setting yourself up for life after football, and so he turned to Dunkin Donuts.
"Everybody," he said, "drinks coffee."
The glazed-donut lover now shares a locker room with one of the most recognizable Dunkin Donuts pitchmen, Rob Gronkowski.
"I love him because he’s got business booming now," Jean Francois said. "I tell him, every time I look at that commercial I smile. Every time you see it and I see Gronk, I’m like, "I’m making a whole lot of money just for seeing his pretty face.' "
"Yeah, I've got to take orders from him," Gronkowski said. "He might have to take orders from me. Maybe I'll bring in some coffees for him. I don't know. We'll figure it out but I did bring that up to him. Super cool and super neat."
Jean Francois may need a steady flow of caffeine in order to pick up the Patriots defensive playbook before Sunday night's game against the Broncos. When he entered the Patriots locker room late on Thursday afternoon, he did so with Lawrence Guy, who is among the new teammates helping him to learn Bill Belichick's system.
"That’s the biggest thing," Jean Francois said. "Anything can happen. They can throw me in that fire and if I don’t know that playbook, I don’t want to mess up something they have already going. That playbook is my best friend right now. That’s my wife, my girlfriend. That’s my everything."
The 30 Dunkin Donuts franchises that will surely give him some immediate cred with Patriots fans hooked on the stuff? Those will get his attention at a later date.