HONOLULU – Arian Foster had a 'Wow, I'm really at the Pro Bowl' moment earlier this week when he looked around the room in the AFC's first team meeting and saw the likes of Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs.
The Texans' second-year running back would be humbled to know that those same NFL stars are impressed with him, too.
"That's a talent," said Lewis, a 12-time Pro Bowler who compared Foster to Roger Craig during the season. "That young kid, me and him have really became close. Even after we played in Houston (in Week 14), I went up and I told him, 'I love the way you play this game.'
"This game ain't (always) about wins and losses. This game is about challenging yourself to be the best. That kid right there has the ability to do something real awesome… That's a great young kid that is really trying to strive to do some great things."
Suggs, a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker, shares the sentiments of his teammate Lewis.
"I think he's awesome," Suggs said of Foster. "He's one of those rare breeds of back. He has like a style or a swagger, aggressiveness to his running. He came in and he was the NFL leading rusher, and we've got a reputation ourselves about stopping the run and I was like, 'There's no way in the world he's going to get 100 on us.' And he sure enough got 100 on us.
"I don't think he does anything special; that's just how he plays. The way he plays is special. I think the world of the kid and I think he's going to be a great back in this league. This is going to be his first of many Pro Bowls."
Manning, an 11-time Pro Bowler and four-time NFL MVP, is a fellow alumnus of the University of Tennessee. He had a firsthand look at Foster's rise to stardom this season, beginning with his 231-yard-rushing game against Indy in Week 1.
"He's played great against the Colts a couple times," Manning said. "He was always a great talent. I think he probably learned a lot from his experience in college and used it to his benefit, both the good times and the bad times. He's really one of the premier backs now. I'm not a great analyst, but I know our defense says he's hard to tackle. He's big, strong and fast."
Foster's AFC backfield-mates are also singing his praises this week.
There's this from Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, who finished second to Foster in rushing this season and averaged 6.3 yards per carry, the second-best mark in NFL history:
"He's got great abilities. The way he runs the ball and the way he can stop on a dime and the way he catches the ball out of the backfield, he did an amazing job this year. Nobody was expecting that, but he surprised a lot of people… I know he's got a lot more to come in the future."
And this from Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, who was fourth in the league in rushing after leading the NFL with 2,006 yards in 2009:
"He's a great guy. I like the way he catches out of the backfield and things like that. He's a very smooth runner. He's not as fast as guys like me and Jamaal Charles and things like that, but he's a very smooth runner."
Foster's lead blocker, fullback Vonta Leach, also has gotten his fair share of kudos this week from his Pro Bowl teammates.
Charles said Leach "blocks like a lineman" and that he'd like to see Leach, an impending free agent, on his team. Johnson, who went to East Carolina a few years after Leach, called him a "great blocker" and complimented his pass-catching ability.
Suggs even praised Leach's style, giving props to the neck roll that Leach wears above his shoulder pads.
"He's got the little stiff neck," Suggs said as he motioned his hands around his own shoulders. "He's definitely the fullback prototype. (Leach and Foster) look good together. They look like a good twosome. I hope you guys do a good job of keeping them together."