x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Arian Foster is poetry in motion

The rushing leader doesn't fit the NFL mould, and that commands respect, writes Mike Tierney.

Rushing leader Arian Foster celebrates a touchdown.
Rushing leader Arian Foster celebrates a touchdown.

At this time a year ago, Arian Foster was barely known to his Houston teammates, much less the NFL world.

Undrafted out of the University of Tennessee, his reputation soiled by an alleged bad attitude, the young running back toiled on the Texans' practice squad. Meaning, he worked Monday through Friday, then watched games on Sunday with the rest of us.

Injuries to others opened the door last December. Foster got four games at tailback and closed out the season with a combined 216 rushing yards in the last two.

Still, the Texans had the accomplished Steve Slaton back this year, along with the prized rookie Ben Tate. Foster figured to time-share the position, at best.

Awarded the job after outplaying Slaton and after Tate suffered a broken leg, Foster amassed 231 ground yards in the first game, a 34-24 win over Indianapolis.

Foster was awarded with a game ball, a hoary football tradition, and he immediately tossed it to the big men on the line who blocked for him, earning points for diplomacy.

Said Foster: "I can't say enough about those guys. You wear the defence down, and it's a test of wills."

Since that opening-day victory and those team-record 231 yards, other backs have fruitlessly played catch-him-if-you-can. Foster has hogged the league's individual rushing lead, with 1,004 yards after 10 games. Two more glittering numbers: 378 receiving yards, along with 12 touchdowns scored, most in the league.

"What people don't understand is that it didn't just happen," Foster said. "I worked day and night at my craft.

"I have a plan in everything that I do. The universe will throw somebody a bone every now and then, and you win the lottery. But for the most part, you get in this life what you put into it."

Foster is not one of those athletes with a single-track mind, zeroed in on their sport. He is well-read. He writes poetry. He studies eastern cultures, which explains his post-touchdown ritual - acting out a Hindu greeting by clenching his fists and bowing to fans.

Said Foster: "It just means, 'I see the God in you.' It's paying respect to the game of football."

Sometimes such showy players do not endear themselves to coaches and talent scouts. They need more time - and a dose of fortune - to break through.

The leash is shorter for them, and Foster got his yanked when he was tardy for a team meeting and absent at another. He was benched at the start of one game.

Those lost carries have not cost Foster the rushing lead. He has helped make the Texans the No 9 scoring team in the league; their dreadful defence is largely to blame for a 4-6 record.