By Mark Nagi

Asked to describe the past couple of months, West linebacker Drew Francis said simply, “It was definitely stressful.”

Back in July 2019, Francis verbally committed to Arkansas, turning down offers from Purdue and Memphis, among others.  But in November, head coach Chad Morris was fired, and Francis’s world was turned upside down.

“I got super close with (then Arkansas Defensive Coordinator) Chavis and Morris,” Francis said.  “I was attached to them, and once they left it was kinda like, ‘Oh no what am I gonna do.’”

Arkansas would hire Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman as their new head coach. As it turned out, Fayetteville would not be the place for Francis.

“There was a lot of waiting,” said Francis. “When I first de-committed from Arkansas, nothing was going on and I was a little bit worried that I might not be able to play football somewhere.”

After the Early Signing Period was completed in mid-December, things changed.  “Finally, it started picking up again and it was a little overwhelming on where I should go visit. I am really happy MTSU was one of those places.”

If the Francis name sounds familiar, it should. Drew is the son of former Tennessee quarterback Jeff Francis, who assisted as needed in the recruiting process. “He told me that it is my choice, and that he could help, but at the end of day it would be my choice.”

Francis took two official visits in recent weeks, one to MTSU and the other to Liberty University.  On January 28, a little over a week before National Signing Day, Francis announced that he’d advance his academic and athletic career in Murfreesboro.

So, why did he pick the Blue Raiders? “Their coaches,” said Francis. “They were very persistent, and I got to know them pretty well.  It got me excited to play for them.  They said I can play outside linebacker, but I think they are going to move me at some point to inside linebacker.”

Francis added, “It was a general feeling. (Defensive Coordinator Scott) Schafer talked about playing North Texas and for some reason him talking about that got me fired up and excited to play.”

Francis completed a successful high school career with the Rebels and was a big part of the rejuvenation of the program.  Under the leadership of head coach Lamar Brown, the Rebels have once again become a state championship contender.  This season they went 12-2, losing in the Class 5A semifinals to the eventual state champion Central Bobcats.

“I do think my senior class and the guys following us have helped shape the culture at West,” said Francis. “I think we set the foundation for it.”

And now, Francis will start a new chapter a couple of hours down the road.