Arian Foster stiff-arms doubt
Texans RB and NFL rushing leader, undrafted in 2009, out to prove he's no fluke
HOUSTON -- Arian Foster strolled into a spacious room beneath Reliant Stadium last Thursday and gasped at the sight before him.Numerous Houston Texans employees roamed around long tables filled with endless paraphernalia: gleaming helmets, freshly pressed jerseys, assorted hats and countless photos. Foster had been told that key players would need to sign many of those items to help the team's marketing department.
Risk and rewardFoster's tenacity has plenty to do with how he came into the league. Nobody selected the former University of Tennessee star in the 2009 draft, and he spent the first half of last season on the Texans' practice squad. But that edge also comes from his independent nature and undeniably free-spirited approach to the world. This is a man who writes poetry, studies eastern cultures and celebrates touchdowns by bowing to the crowd with clenched hands -- it's a Hindu greeting he says means "I see the God in you." Foster is also so naturally outspoken that he once upset a grade school teacher by defiantly proclaiming that Santa Claus didn't exist (that move also didn't endear Foster's parents to that particular instructor).
At Tennessee, 'weeded out of the rotation'For example, when Foster thought about leaving Tennessee for an NFL bid after his stellar junior season, Carl said former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer promised Arian that he'd receive 25 to 30 carries a game if he stayed. But after coming into his senior year needing just 685 yards to become the school's all-time leading rusher, Foster wound up with just 570 because of injuries and a limited role in the offense of new coordinator Dave Clawson. "I thought I was going to be the go-to guy," said Foster, who received a second-round grade from the NFL's draft evaluators after his junior season. "But I barely got the ball after my first two games. And after that, I was slowly weeded out of the rotation. I felt like I couldn't say anything because Coach Fulmer's job was in jeopardy and I'd end up looking like I was selfish."
“While those questions about Foster's work ethic weren't valid -- "I can remember him running every day after practice and always trying to get better at something," said Kansas City Chiefs rookie safety and former Tennessee star Eric Berry -- they certainly affected his status in the 2009 draft. When the second day of that event arrived, Foster tried easing his nerves by playing golf with Carl, his older brother Abdul and a friend. By the ninth hole, he was constantly checking his cell phone, and he grew more despondent as the afternoon passed. By the end of the sixth round, Foster had returned home and given up hope. The only uplifting moment of that day came when teams started calling to sign Foster as a free agent. He spoke to the Jets, Saints, Buccaneers and Texans, and his girlfriend, Romina Reinhart, tried to keep him focused. Every time a new team called, she would ask, "Who is that?" before racing to the computer to assess its depth chart. Foster ultimately chose the Texans because he figured he might have a good shot at complementing the smaller Slaton, who was coming off a 1,282-yard rookie season.
After that, I decided that if I only got three plays a game, I was going to make them the best plays ever.” -- Texans RB Arian Foster, on advice given by Vikings RB coach Eric Bieniemy, regarding Foster worrying about playing time
'In my mind, I was going to take this job'That goal seemed more real after Foster started pushing through the frustrations of being a practice squad player. He was watching a Bears-Vikings game last fall when he noticed an announcer referring to a player who had just been activated from a practice squad for that contest. Upon hearing that news, Foster turned to Reinhart on the couch and smiled. She nodded back to indicate he could have such a fate. After the Texans activated Foster and put him on special teams, Foster thought back to a conversation he'd had with Minnesota Vikings running backs coach Eric Bieniemy prior to a preseason game. Bieniemy once had tried recruiting Foster to UCLA, so he wanted to know how the rookie was doing.
Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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