Stay in school. Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, the NFL’s newest overnight sensation, can confidently recommend that to kids dreaming of a career in pro football.
Always listen to your teachers and take their advice to heart. On that, Foster begs to differ.
It was a high school teacher who once tried to deliver a dose of reality to Foster, then a stubborn 16-year old in Albuquerque. It didn’t go over well.
“They were asking us what we wanted to do when we grew up,” said Foster, who rushed for a club-record 231 yards and three touchdowns Sunday in a season-opening upset of the Indianapolis Colts. “I told the teacher I wanted to be in the NFL. She kind of laughed and asked me what else I wanted to do.
“I was kind of offended, because she was going around the class asking everybody else, and I was the only one that was asked what else I wanted to do.”
Safe to say that teacher won’t be getting one of Foster’s game tickets Sunday when the Texans play at the Washington Redskins, and the second-year bruiser gets a chance to show that his spectacular debut was no fluke.
Foster sailed through the 2009 draft the way he slipped through the arms of would-be Colts tacklers Sunday. The 6-foot-1, 227-pound bruiser from the University of Tennessee ran an unremarkable 4.7-second 40-yard dash at his school’s pro day, wasn’t selected in the draft, and wound up signing with the Texans as a free agent.
He said he was distraught when his name wasn’t called on draft weekend, although he did get a call from the New Orleans Saints, who said they were considering taking him in the seventh round. He said he also received attention from the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, obviously, the Texans, who took the unusual step of signing the rookie free agent to a two-year deal, as opposed to a one-year contract.
“As soon as teams started calling, my girlfriend started to go online to look at rosters and really seeing what my best chances were,” Foster said. “We looked at all the rosters, and I saw the Texans’ roster. Not to downplay anyone on the roster at the time, but I felt like I could compete with them.”
That makes sense, as Houston had the league’s 30th-ranked running game last season. Foster spent a couple of months on the practice squad before he was activated in November. He appeared in six games, rushing for 257 yards and three touchdowns.
Foster is a good fit with the Texans’ zone-blocking offensive line, which requires a big back who is an aggressive, decisive runner. The Texans do not want someone dancing around, looking for holes. Alex Gibbs, who for years coached the Denver Broncos’ ultra-successful zone-blocking line, used to limit backs to one move before they hit a hole. The Texans are the same way.
“Their scheme is definitely suited to his style of running,” Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. “It’s one cut — make a cut up the field. He does a great job of reading his blocking.”
That’s something that Washington Coach Mike Shanahan could have learned from his son, Kyle, the Redskins’ offensive coordinator. The younger Shanahan had the same title with the Texans during Foster’s rookie season.
Mike Shanahan said his son “just had a really good feeling about [Foster]. He said, ‘Hey, they’ve got a great running back for the future,’ and he just thought he was going to have a great year.
“I asked him, ‘Well, why didn’t you tell me he was going to have 200 yards?’ ”
Foster, whose confidence in his abilities has seldom wavered, might be the only person who would have predicted that. His confidence was rock solid even when that teacher asked him what else he had in mind for a career.
He never answered.
“I don’t want to say that I put all of my eggs in one basket,” he said. “But you know I kind of did.”
His father, Carl Foster, was a standout receiver in the late 1970s at Banning High in Carson who later played for the University of New Mexico and had a free-agent tryout with the Broncos.
Carl Foster is in the hotel business in Arizona and is divorced from Arian’s mother, Bernadette Sizemore, an administrative assistant for African-American student services at New Mexico. They raised their children to relentlessly pursue their dreams with the passion that Arian has.
“We’ve always encouraged all of our kids to pursue their hopes and dreams,” Carl Foster said in a phone interview. “You can’t really listen to other people. You’ve got to kind of blank them out.”
Arian Foster has done more than blank out the doubters. He has blown them away.