For the first time in a long time,
It didn’t happen when he signed a long-term contract with the Texans on Tuesday, a momentous occasion for a player who -- in three years' time -- has gone from undrafted to one of the NFL’s elite running backs and a cornerstone of the Texans franchise.
It happened a few minutes later, when Foster was asked about his hardships as a child in Albuquerque, N.M., during a press conference at Reliant Stadium.
As he stood onstage at a podium in a team auditorium, dressed in a sleek black sport coat with a white button-down shirt and shiny black reading glasses, Foster was overcome with emotion as he recounted his mother, Bernadette Sizemore, pawning off her wedding ring to provide food for his family.
“I just told myself that I wanted to do something with my life,” he said.
Foster was so choked up that he had to turn to his right and excuse himself from the podium for a moment. He removed his glasses and wiped his tear-swelled eyes with his left hand.
“We just had this conversation. I don't cry,” he said to Texans senior director of public relations Kevin Cooper, standing onstage to his left.
Smiling and dabbing at his eyes with a tissue as he regained his composure, Foster continued.
“I wanted to do something with my life to make sure that when I had a kid, that she never had to worry about the lights being on, she didn’t have to worry about any of that, and I didn’t care if I had to work three jobs or whatever,” he said. “That‘s why I don’t complain too much, man. Because at the end of the day, we’re all people, man. We just want to smile. And even when we were growing up and it was tough, that’s one thing my family always had was we smiled through it all. That’s why I try to remain as optimistic as possible.”
Foster and his family have plenty to smile about now. His new contract is reportedly worth $43.5 million over five years, with $20.75 million guaranteed. And the two-time Pro Bowler has earned every penny.
After going undrafted out of Tennessee in 2009, Foster was a practice squad player for most of his rookie season. He worked his way up to a full-time starting job in 2010 and led the league with 1,616 rushing yards, a record for an undrafted player.
Over the last two seasons, Foster leads the league with 4,061 yards from scrimmage and 30 touchdowns. He ranks second with 2,840 rushing yards.
“I had goals coming into the NFL, and I started small,” Foster said. “My first goal was to make a team. Once you make a team, you get to play special teams as an undrafted kid. Once you play special teams, your goal is to be the best special teams player on the field. I started setting small goals like that every single day that I was out there – get better every single day. I think that once you take that mindset with anything that you do in your life, you can be successful.”
Foster played last season on a one-year deal, earning the league minimum as an exclusive rights free agent. He didn’t hold out or complain about his contract in the media. And he finished the season with 1,224 rushing yards despite missing three-and-a-half games.
"I’m an extreme believer in karma,” Foster said. “If you take care of this game, eventually it’ll take care of you. I always try not to play for a payday. I always try to play for the logo on my helmet, the name on the back of my jersey, my teammates. I always try to pay for the right reasons, and I’ll continue to play for the right reasons.”
Foster said he feels a “huge obligation” to the Texans organization and fans "to be the best me that I can be for a long time." He was thankful the team reached out to him a about long-term contract even though they could have given him one-year deals and franchise tags for the next 2-3 years.
“I want to thank my offensive line and my organization and my coaching staff and everybody in this city, the fans that have showed me so much support and so much love,” Foster said. “My offensive line, because they made me look a little better than I am, and I made sure I told ‘em that each individually.
“I’m extremely excited that we were able to come to terms and get a long-term deal done, because I love this city. I love this organization. It’s a first-class organization. Mr. Bob McNair, our general manager Rick Smith, our head coach Gary Kubiak, they’ve all showed me so much support ever since I stepped foot as an undrafted free agent in Houston, not sure where I was going to go. They gave me a chance, and that’s all you can ask for in this lifetime.
“I’m excited about the future, I’m excited about doing my best as a Houston Texan and bringing rings to Houston.”
Those championships can come later. First, Foster had to fulfill a promise to his mother that he made when he was seven years old.
He had to send her a fruit basket.
“I used to tell my mom I was gonna be in the NFL, as every kid did back then,” Foster said. “One day I was joking – I was a real playful kid. I was telling my family everything I was gonna buy them. I was going to buy a house; I was going to buy a car. My brother was like, ‘What are you gonna get me?’ [I said,] ‘I’m gonna get you this.’ I told my sister, I told my dad, and I left my mom out. She was like, ‘Well, what are you gonna get me?’
“I said, ‘I’ll get you a fruit basket.’ She was like, ‘A fruit basket?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll get you a fruit basket.’ So it was kind of a running joke throughout my family throughout my career: ‘When are you gonna get mom a fruit basket?’”
Foster peered down at his watch on his left wrist.
“And so today, I think it should be getting there now,” he said. “I did. I sent her a fruit basket to her job.”
Namaste, Mr. Foster.