Top 25 players in AFL history: #6 George LaFrance
Thursday July 19, 2012
CHICAGO – Continuing its countdown of the 25 Greatest Players in AFL History, the Silver Anniversary Committee has announced its selection for the 6th Greatest Player in AFL History: George LaFrance.
One of the game’s all-time great offensive specialists and kick return men, LaFrance took the long route to playing pro football. After leading New Iberia Senior High School to state championships in baseball in 1982 and 1983, LaFrance enrolled at Eastern Arizona Junior College to play baseball and football. After only a year, he transferred to Baker University where he was named All-Conference as a wide receiver in 1985. The following season, LaFrance, along with teammate and current Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy, led the team to the 1986 NAIA Division II National Championship. Upon graduation, both LaFrance and McCarthy elected to attend graduate school at Fort Hays State University in Kansas to pursue careers in coaching.
But while McCarthy continued down the coaching path, LaFrance seized an opportunity to continue to play. In 1988, he was offered a contract with an expansion team in the Arena Football League, the Detroit Drive. In his rookie season with the Drive, LaFrance tallied 39 receptions for 439 yards and nine touchdowns and earning his first of five ArenaBowl championships. His production caught the eye of the Green Bay Packers, who signed both LaFrance and top draft pick Sterling Sharpe to contracts on the same day.
His stint in the NFL lasted only a few weeks. LaFrance returned to Detroit in 1989, motivated to achieve legendary status in the AFL. At one point, he held more than 30 League records. The first player in League history to amass 20,000 all-purpose yards in a career, LaFrance went on to lead his teams to eight championship games in 12 seasons, winning five of them and becoming the only man in AFL history to win three ArenaBowl MVP awards.
LaFrance was named MVP of the League in 1989 and 1991 with the Drive. In 1994, LaFrance was traded to the Tampa Bay Storm. After a disappointing loss in the first round of the postseason, the Storm brought in LaFrance’s old coach in Detroit, Tim Marcum, to lead the team. The impact was immediate, as the 1995 season saw Tampa Bay win the ArenaBowl IX championship. LaFrance was named game MVP. The Storm repeated the following season and LaFrance enjoyed the best statistical performance of his career, recording 100 receptions for 1,258 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Over the next several years, LaFrance saw his playing time and production decrease as younger players began to make names for themselves. LaFrance, however, remained positive, taking the opportunity to teach the game to its rising stars. His final season came in 2000 with the New Jersey Red Dogs, where he caught 30 passes for 382 yards and six touchdowns. After the season, LaFrance called it a career.
In 12 years in the League, LaFrance tallied 622 receptions for 8,888 yards and 195 touchdowns and retired as the AFL’s all-time leader in every major receiving and kick return category. He is also tied with former teammate Stevie Thomas for the most touchdown receptions in ArenaBowl history with ten receiving scores in his career. In 2006, the AFL Historical Committee dubbed LaFrance the 3rd Greatest Player in AFL History, while the Silver Anniversary Committee selected him as the 5th Greatest Receiver in AFL History in 2012. LaFrance was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2011.
The League’s Silver Anniversary Committee will continue to countdown its list of the 25 Greatest Players in AFL History with the announcements of the Top 5 during the postseason.
25 Greatest Players in AFL History
6. George LaFrance
7. Sherdrick Bonner
9. Sam Hernandez
10. Damian Harrell
11. Sylvester Bembery
12. Stevie Thomas
13. Kenny McEntyre
14. John Corker
15. Dwayne Dixon
16. Kurt Warner
17. Bob McMillen
18. Mark Grieb
19. Darryl Hammond
20. Alvin Rettig
21. Durwood Roquemore
22. Chris Jackson
23. Ben Bennett
24. Clevan Thomas
25. Gary Mullen