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Ricky Jean Francois happy to be with Pats, and in 'Dunkin' Donuts heaven'

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, who owns 30 Dunkin' Donuts franchises, couldn't have landed in a more fitting place when he signed a one-year contract with the New England Patriots on Tuesday.

"Believe me, that was one thing as soon as I got off the airplane, every block I hit I saw a Dunkin' Donuts," he said Thursday. "I was laughing; I must be in Dunkin' Donuts heaven here."

Jean Francois, 30, said his business interest in Dunkin' Donuts -- which has corporate headquarters in Canton, Massachusetts (about 15 minutes from where the Patriots play at Gillette Stadium) -- was hatched a few years ago.

DL Ricky Jean Francois, who signed a one-year deal with the Patriots on Tuesday, talks about owning 30 Dunkin' Donuts franchises and how he smiles every time he sees Rob Gronkowski's Dunkin' commercials.

Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer ago

"Just 2014, I sat down and talked to a few guys, older guys told me I can't play this game forever, so do something that can help you; the day you walk away from this game, you can have something to do with something that can take care of you and your family," he explained. "So Dunkin' Donuts. Plus everyone drinks coffee."

Jean Francois said his 30 stores range from Savannah, Georgia, to Hilton Head, South Carolina. While he would like to expand to 50 stores, he hasn't thought about the New England region.

"I think they have enough already," he said with a touch of humor. "I'd be shocked if I could get any type of territory up here."

One of the other twists to Jean Francois joining the Patriots, who needed some reinforcements with starter Malcom Brown still sidelined with an ankle injury, is how tight end Rob Gronkowski is one of Dunkin' Donuts' top pitchmen.

Gronkowski flashed a wide smile when Jean Francois' entrepreneurship, and preference for glazed donuts, was mentioned.

"I think that's great," Gronkowski said. "Maybe I'll bring in some coffees for him. I did bring that up to him -- super cool and super neat."

As for Gronkowski's promotional work, Jean Francois joked, "I love him, because he has business booming. I told him every time I look at that commercial, I smile now."