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Texans' Arian Foster: Yards from ordinary
One of the tattoos on his biceps reads, "Against all odds."
At the University of Tennessee, Foster mulled leaving school before his senior year to enter the NFL draft, where he was projected to go in the second or third round after having amassed nearly 1,200 rushing yards as a junior. Then-Coach Phillip Fulmer persuaded Foster to stay, a decision Foster deeply regretted after being shunted out of a new offensive scheme introduced that year by a new coordinator, and gaining just 570 yards.
"They had other individuals they thought were better-suited to fit their philosophy," his father, Carl Foster, said. "It hurt him. It hurt him dramatically."
Foster and his father said they believed he got labeled that year as a selfish, bad-attitude guy, but Fulmer said he understood Foster's disappointment.
"There were a lot of tough breaks for the young man," he said. "There's a difference between being down and completely out. I think it just made him that much more determined."
From pain to gain
The pain lingered like the hamstring injury he suffered just before the Senior Bowl, which kept him out of that year's NFL Scouting Combine and further damaged his draft profile. On the draft's second day, Foster went out with his father and brother to play 18 holes of golf, but Foster grew so despondent as the rounds passed without a ring from his cellphone that the group ended the outing early.
"What he turned it into was fuel," his brother, Abdul, said. "He turned it into something that motivated him to keep going."
Once the draft ended, Foster's phone began ringing. There was, thankfully, still interest. Concluding that he had the best chance with Houston, Foster signed there. Yet landing on the practice squad rather than the full roster at the end of training camp felt like another punch in the gut.
"I was disappointed," Foster said, "All I know is I didn't make the team."
The perceived slights increased Foster's commitment and opened his eyes. He made sure he was getting to meetings on time. He studied defenses. During the offseason, he got up at 5:30 a.m. for twice-daily workouts with his brother, a personal trainer. "A light finally went off," Kubiak said. "He modified his behavior," Smith said.
The difficulties also fired his pen. He documented his trials in various pieces. Sometimes he would write late into the night, sitting on his bed. He has written songs for the mother of his one-year-old daughter, but he takes exception to being called a rapper.
"Anybody who knows me at all knows I'm a writer," he said. "I write. I'd be crazy if I didn't write, because I have so many thoughts, so many visions."
Texans wide receiver David Anderson occupies a locker next to Foster. He said with a grin that he has seen much of the "goofy stuff" his heady teammate pens. Sometimes, he said, Foster will offer up a few lines of rap for his teammates' review - but only the rap. There are no poetry readings at Reliant Park.
"This is a locker room," Anderson said. "It's not Wharton."
"As far as I can tell, he's got [his writings] everywhere. On his phone, his notebook. He's a creative mind. I don't think he's the next Maya Angelou, but he's definitely talented."
Wide receiver Jacoby Jones said Foster gained full acceptance as soon as he got off the practice squad last year. He picked up 216 yards in two games late in the season against New England and Miami. Injuries to key rivals helped Foster get a shot in training camp this year.
After each of his touchdowns last week, Foster bowed and pressed his hands together, displaying the Hindu "namaste" salutation, signaling his gratitude to have made it in the NFL.
"Hurdles define men in life," Foster said. Last year "was a hurdle. I'm glad it's in the past."