It's hard being a big man. For years, Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois tried to collect sneakers, but could never find the shoes he wanted in a size 14. While smaller guys with regular-sized feet prospered around him, Jean-Francois was left in the dark. When he finally found a store that could meet his needs, his sneaker collection grew quickly.
An avid car collector as well, Jean Francois spoke to STACK about how he found exclusive shoes in his size, learned to drive in the snow in Indianapolis, and became known as the "sneaker guy" in the locker room.
STACK: When did you first get into sneakers?
Ricky Jean Francois: I probably got into it a year ago. I've got about 80-90 pairs.
You've collected an awful lot of heat in a short time. Why did it take you so long to become a sneakerhead?
You already know a lot of guys my size got a problem. It's hard for us to find a size 14 or 15. Either we can't get it because they don't make it in a 14 or we can't find it. When I finally ran into [Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver] Antonio Brown, he hooked me up with a guy named Seven in Boca Raton in Miami. The dude was saying any shoe you name, I have it in a 14. I was like, you can't have what I want. He just started pulling out shoes. Five minutes later I left with like five pairs of shoes.
Out of those initial five, what was the best pair you left the store with?
The Nike Air Mags. That's like the crème de la crème. If you have that shoe, you can stand on top of any shoe. When I asked Seven, it was like "you ain't got this shoe probably." That was the first shoe he pulled out. He was like, "I've got to show you some heat. I don't know if you're ready for it." I said don't put them back in the box. They are leaving with me.
OK, so you've been in the sneaker game a little while now. How would you describe your collection?
At first I started going after all the Air Jordans. Then at a certain p0int, Jeremy Scott came out with some shoes with wings on them and that caught my eye. My thing is, nothing against people that go and get general release shoes, but when I walk outside the door, my feet have to make a statement. I have to get you to break your neck and ask me, "Where did you get that shoe from?" Everybody goes to Foot Locker and all that stuff. If I can go inside Foot Locker and go and get this shoe, it's not meant for me to have it. If I have to go through one of my shoe connects, and it's exclusive, I will buy every one.
What shoe have you worn that has made people stop in their tracks?
One time I was with Colin Kaepernick. He has a shoe collection himself, and he was always one of the guys who picked on me, saying you don't have this or you don't have that. When I finally got all my kicks in, I wore the Air Mags, but I didn't know they had a light on them. Seven showed them to me. So when I walked into the hotel, everyone saw 'Kap, and then the guy with the kicks.
With the Colts, every week I always get a different shoe and I'll bring it into the locker room. Up here, people really aren't going to look for shoes as much, but when I go back to Miami or am riding around with my teammates, I'll bring out some top-of-the-line shoes like the Doerbechers, the Toros or the [Air Jordan XI] Space Jams. But every time I go to the hotel on Saturday, I pull out a shoe. Everybody waits on me to post the Instagram picture or to see me walking with them. To mess with them, I'll have the shoe on, but when it's time to go to meetings, I'll swap the shoe out and put something else on. My teammates will be like, "Didn't you just have a different pair of shoes on?" And I'll say yeah I got them on but I'm not going to let you see them. I'm going to let you do like all the other sneakerheads, you're going to see them on Instagram.
Are there bigger sneakerheads on the Colts than you?
Yeah. Guys like Reggie Wayne. I've seen him come out with Ray Allen Air Jordan XI "Ring Night." When he brought them out, I took my shoes off, put em back in my truck and put the slides on. You've got Robert Mathis, Greg Toller, Hakeem Nicks because he's with Jumpman. Those are the ones on top of the game. Someone like Reggie, he's been doing it for so long it's like a second nature to him.
Do you do anything special with your cleats on game day? Or is your love for exclusive sneakers strictly an off-the-field thing?
I'm an off-the-field guy, but a lot of guys say I need to get on the field, so I've sent a few pairs of cleats to Sole By Air, down in Miami and let him freak those kicks. People are telling me if you're going to have the shoe game on lock, at least bring the cleats out. And I'm like OK then, I'm going to change my avenue, time to go to the cleats.
What's your favorite sneaker shop?
It's called Sneaker Kings. You go in there, and [Seven] has this one section, the $100,000 section, because all the shoes he has in that area, he has a king chair sitting there. If anybody buys anything from that area or spends a certain amount, you get to take a picture in there. But if you can't, that area is roped off.
Have you sat in the chair?
I've been in that section many a time. When I come in there, I have to come correct.
You're known for your peanut butter and jelly sack dance. Do you have any PB&J themed kicks?
I don't have any, but you just made me come up with an idea. I got to grab some of my Jordans and send them to somebody [to customize]. I gotta do that.
So out of your whole collection, what's your favorite pair of shoes?
The one that I'm super that I have, and that's why I haven't worn it yet, is the Oregon Air Jordan 5s. I got them and I've been looking for them for so long. The ones I wear the most often is Doernbecher and it comes with a light on the shoe. It's a black shoe with holographic words. That's my favorite. I make sure that if we go anywhere I can cut the lights off, I let you see the shoe.
Let's switch gears and talk cars. How long have you been into them?
Down in Miami a lot of dudes drive old school Chevys. Everyone has got to have a '71, '72 and '73. I told myself I want to do something a little bit different from everybody. I'm working on a project, a 1969 Camaro that will have 1,700 horsepower with 1,546 torque underneath it. When it finally comes out, believe me, a lot of people will know that car when they see it.
Are you a new school guy as well when it comes to cars?
Yeah, I have a 2014 Charger, but I call it Bruce Wayne. That one has 1,000 horsepower in it, and I put a Hennessy engine in it. I got 24x17s in the back. I turned the car into a wide body. I haven't seen anybody on this side with it. It's all black and on the inside of the rims it says Bruce Wayne.
How does your car collection differ from Indy to, say, San Francisco or Miami?
In Indy I can only have Bruce Wayne. I have an F-150 with me, a bigger one that's all white. I got a 12-inch lift on it. I gotta drive that, because you know when the winter comes there are certain areas where they don't plow snow. When everyone else is stuck in it, all I gotta do is kick it into 4x4 and I'm already 12 inches off the ground. I'm in a better position than a lot of people.
And finally, what is the best city for car culture, and what's the best city for sneaker culture?
Because I'm an old school guy, I think Miami and Cali [for car culture]. I'll take Miami, that's home. For the shoe part, I can't say where, because its become a trend. In San Francisco people really didn't care for sneakers, but when I came out here I saw other dudes that were heavy into it in Indy. In Miami I've seen guys in Louis Vuitton, all types of different shoes.
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