Texans' Arian Foster: Yards from ordinary

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 18, 2010; 1:01 AM

HOUSTON - For a glimpse inside the head of the NFL's leading rusher, you might follow Houston Texans running back Arian Foster to the rooftop of his suburban apartment complex, where he sometimes ascends on a moonlit night to write poetry. There is no patio up there, no chairs. It is, he said, just a roof. The strains of old Chinese music or perhaps Mozart often provide a calming backdrop, flowing through his headphones.

Foster has filled 20 or 30 spiral-bound notebooks with handwritten original poems, short stories and songs. He rolled up 231 yards on 33 carries with three rushing touchdowns in the Texans' upset victory over Indianapolis last Sunday, but he seems just as comfortable discussing the children's book he has in the works as he is with details of the game. He occasionally sits at his locker stall hunched over his notebook or hand-held computer, jotting down lines of verse or random musings.

Despite his startling rise from near-anonymity last year - he was bypassed in the 2009 draft, then relegated to the Texans' practice squad for the first 10 games of last season - Foster comes across to many as something of an anti-jock. His nonconformist tendencies have occasionally rubbed those in the highly regimented world of big-time football the wrong way. They also, perhaps, offer at least a partial explanation for what has been a considerably bumpy ride to becoming Houston's featured back and the league's newest sensation - not to mention a considerable concern for the Washington Redskins in Sunday's meeting at FedEx Field.

His opening-day performance was the best since O.J. Simpson picked up 250 yards in the Buffalo Bills' 1973 opener.

"My brother always used to say the reason people have a hard time with me is they can't pin me," Foster said outside the team's weight room at Reliant Park this past week. "They can't stereotype me. I'm not a jock who does this, this and this. I'm kind of a free spirit in the way I live my life.

"I always stray away from fitting into the football player mold."

Going all in

When Foster arrived in Houston, he had little to say to his new teammates because he didn't know anyone. Some interpreted his silence to be arrogance, others aloofness or nonchalance. After lining up fifth or sixth on the depth chart throughout training camp, he found himself banished to the purgatory of the team's practice squad when the season opened.

"He was a young, immature kid coming out," Houston Coach Gary Kubiak said. "He didn't get drafted, and those guys usually have a chip on their shoulder . . . [we] had to teach him to be a professional worker, a professional in the classroom. It was a big battle for him to make the adjustments he had to make."

Houston General Manager Rick Smith summoned Foster for a private meeting early in the season.

"He's a philosophy major, a thinker," Smith said. "He marches to the beat of his own drummer. A lot of time when you have that personality type, those guys aren't very interested in what people think about them, or they don't care. He had to understand if he was going to function, succeed in this environment and be a part of a team, in some respects those things are important."

Foster wasn't going to blow his chance over misunderstandings. He recalled responding to an elementary school teacher's question about his career choice by saying he would become a professional football player. When she laughed and said, "Well, what else do you want to do?" Foster grew annoyed. That was the only thing he wanted to do.

"I don't want to say I put all of my eggs in the same basket," he said. "But I kind of did."

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