HONOLULU – Both went undrafted out of college. Both were widely unknown before the 2010 season.
Now, they’re both first-team All-Pro and starting in the Pro Bowl.
Texans running back
“I’m very humbled,” Foster said on Thursday after the AFC practice at Kapolei High School. “It’s a surreal feeling.
"The first meeting we had, everybody in the Pro Bowl was there. You kind of just see guys that you look up to throughout the whole year. You’ve been seeing them do it for years, and when you see them, it’s just surreal. You kind of realize that they have the same amount of respect for you as you do for them, and that makes it all worth it.”
Foster and Leach are both first-time Pro Bowlers, Foster after his second NFL season and Leach after his seventh.
“This is just putting the icing on the cake for the year that we both had,” Leach said. “Obviously, Arian did a great job. He stepped up for our team, in my opinion one of the MVPs of the team to do what he had done. To come out and celebrate with him and also with (running backs coach) Chick Harris, that’s real good.”
Foster led the league in rushing yards (1,616), yards from scrimmage (2,220), rushing touchdowns (16) and total touchdowns (18) in 2010, one year after he spent much of his rookie season on the Texans’ practice squad. He set the single-season record for rushing yards by an undrafted player and was the first Texan to win the league rushing title.
Leach paved the way for Foster’s success. He didn’t have a single carry, and hasn’t for the past two seasons, but was an impact player as a bruising lead blocker. The Texans averaged a franchise-record 4.8 yards per carry this season.
Thanks to that, and the “Leach to the Beach” campaign that helped get him to Hawaii, Leach is now getting the recognition that often can be hard to come by for a fullback.
“It really makes you feel good,” Leach said. “You go against guys and they tell you that, hey, they’d been game planning you or you’re a good fullback. To hear the other guys that you play against come up and tell you that, opposing coaches and everybody, they appreciate the job that I do, so I’m just glad.”
Leach has 12 people en route to Hawaii to celebrate the Pro Bowl with him, including his mother, brother, Harris and his high school football coach from Lumberton, N.C. Foster’s daughter, Zeniah Egypt Foster, is already in town, and the rest of his family will be joining them on Friday.
The highlight of Foster’s trip so far was watching fireworks with his daughter at the end of a luau on Wednesday night.
“My daughter had never seen firecrackers before and she was looking at the firecrackers,” he said. “You can’t replace that moment for anybody.”
Leach has a fond memory of his own from the luau.
“I went there and I was on stage (dancing),” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting me a grass skirt and doing a little hula dancing.”
Such is the life of a Pro Bowler in Hawaii.