A year ago at this time, Arian Foster showed promise. Sunday night, he showed off the NFL rushing title.
Foster won the title with 1,616 yards and 17 touchdowns, capping the best season in league history for an undrafted running back. It came in a 34-17 victory Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"When you set a goal for yourself and you reach that goal, it's a weird feeling," Foster said. "I feel there was still more I could have done. That gives me a reason to work in the offseason.
"You are never perfect as a player or a person, but you're always working toward it. I guess I have to set some new goals."
Foster rushed for 180 yards on 31 carries and scored two touchdowns as the Texans capped a disappointing season with a 6-10 record. That gave the Texans back-to-back seasons with league stat leaders. Matt Schaub won the passing title last year.
"That's what we do this for, to get our skill guys to the Pro Bowl and give us the records and be the talk of the league," tackle Eric Winston said. "It was a fun year from that standpoint, knowing that we were chasing something pretty special.
"Last year, winning the passing crown, and now this year, the rushing crown, shows how dynamic this offense is and I think it shows you how talented every guy in here (is) and the coaches we have leading us."
Foster beat out Priest Holmes for the most yards gained by an undrafted running back in a season. Holmes surpassed 1,500 yards in 2001 and 2002.
"It's kind of surreal," Foster said. "I couldn't have done it without my teammates. We didn't accomplish the things we wanted to as a team, but hopefully next year we can patch some things up and bring home some wins for the city of Houston."
How did he go from the Texans' practice squad in 2009 to the NFL rushing champion in 2010?
"It's a combination of a lot of bad luck and a lot of hard work," Foster said. "In this life, sometimes things don't go your way. You can take two roads, you can fold, you can quit. Or, you can follow your heart and do what you know how to do. That's what I did."
Foster is personally happy with his accomplishments, but…
"They would have meant more if we had the Ws to go along with it," Foster said. "But it's always nice to know that people around you that have been in this business for 20-plus years, they respect what you are doing. It's a good feeling. I wish we could have gotten some Ws to go along with it."
Foster had a highly rated career at Tennessee but a disappointing senior season and wasn't drafted. The Texans signed him to their practice squad and hoped he'd develop. He got strong lectures from running backs coach Chick Harris and from coach Gary Kubiak.
"He had an opportunity," Harris said. "Sometimes, when you come from a lower round or you are undrafted, you experience some success, the talent level starts to show and, all of a sudden, he's on top of it. I'm pleased that it happened so soon."
Kubiak spoke to Foster after the game. What did he say?
"He said, 'I'm hard on you because I don't want you to fail,'" Foster said. "That meant a lot to me. Player-coach relationships can be so rocky sometimes, especially with a guy like me. I have a chip on my shoulder so much that people are out to get me and coach Kubes is always on me. Him saying that, it kind of solidified what I thought of him as a man and as a coach. I would love to play for him for the remainder of my career."
Kubiak praised Foster's progress.
"You've got a kid standing there in the locker room right now that what he did is incredible," Kubiak said. "He was not drafted. There were a lot of knocks on him, but the game is fair. If you do it and do it the right way, it will let you play.
"I'm just so proud of him, how far he's come as a person, as a player. Our guys up front, some of the numbers Arian put up and some of the numbers he walks away with this year, is a lot of credit to a lot of people."
Left tackle Duane Brown joined the rest of the offensive linemen in praising Foster.
"We don't get much recognition individually, but collectively when you watch him do well, that's our glory right there," Brown said. "We hang our hats on him, how well we run the ball. That's something that we came into the season wanting to establish and it's gone good all year."
Fullback Vonta Leach earned a trip to the Pro Bowl blocking for Foster and has watched him grow from a reluctant rookie to the league rushing leader.
"He was an undrafted guy coming into the locker room," Leach said. "He thought everyone was against him. At first, he didn't want to take a few pointers and stuff, but as he went through it, he was all right. He was slow to take protocol and things from veteran players. It's what you have to go with."
Foster is already thinking about next year.
"You never grade out 100 percent," Foster said. "The guys on the other side of the ball get paid, too. It's just little things. Every running back every year can recap their highlights and say they left some yards on the field.
"I think going into next season, you're going to see me a little faster, stronger and a little quicker than I was this year."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.