ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Arian Foster glad to give back to his native Albuquerque
These days, Arian Foster is playing a number of roles, the main one being an NFL megastar running back for the Houston Texans. But Saturday, his role was that of mentor. It was the opening day of Foster’s youth football camp at the University of New Mexico practice fields. And it certainly looked like one he was born to play.
Especially in his hometown. “When I was a kid, I went to a Brian Urlacher camp,” Foster says of the former Lobo and Chicago Bears sensation. “It’s inspired me since. I’ve always wanted to come back to the city I grew up, was born in. I wanted to show some kind of love. Hopefully, I can reach one of these kids like he did me.” There are plenty to reach. The two-day camp, sponsored by Gillette and Procamps, attracted 275 youngsters. It is free for all kids and benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Mexico. “The response was just tremendous,” says Tim Sheahan, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs. “Unfortunately, we had to turn down 85 kids because it filled up. It means so much for us to have Arian here. He’s a great mentor and a character guy who’s a great role model for the kids.” With the help of numerous area football coaches, the 26-year-old Foster helped instruct the campers on a variety of aspects of the game. He spoke with them, joked with them and talked to them about football, education and life throughout the 3 1/2-hour session. “It’s just really awesome to watch him out there,” said Foster’s mother, Bernadette Sizemore, who still lives in Albuquerque. “I remember when we came to a Brian Urlacher camp a long time ago. … That always stuck with him, and he’s always talked about coming back and doing this.”
Foster was a YAFL star in Albuquerque, then played for Valley High. His older brother, Abdul, was a standout for Valley, where he graduated in 2002. Arian moved to San Diego to live with his father, former Lobo football player Carl Foster, after his sophomore year. He went on to become a standout running back at the University of Tennessee and rushed for 1,193 yards as a junior. But he had less than half as many as a senior, and wasn’t selected in the 2009 NFL draft. He was signed to Houston’s practice squad that season, then made the Texans’ active roster that November and played in six games. He started for the first time in the last game of the season and rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns against New England. In 2010, he snatched the starting spot for good and became the NFL’s leading rusher. He made the Pro Bowl each of the past three seasons, rushing for more than 4,200 yards and 41 touchdowns in that span. Has the success changed him? “Honestly, not at all,” Sizemore says. “He’s never really changed and has always been a kid at heart. This camp just kind of lends to that.”
Arian says: “I enjoy being with the kids and teaching fundamentals. It’s wonderful to come back every so often, but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to go back and get in touch with community.” Foster’s business manager, Lameck “Humble” Lukanga — a graduate of UNM, where he earned a master’s — says there’s more to come. “Helping this community is very important to Arian, and to me, too,” Lukanga says. “We plan to continue this camp and do a lot of other things here in the future.” Arian is doing quite a number of things these days. Earlier in the week, he was in New York shooting a movie — “Draft Day” — starring Kevin Costner. Foster says he’s not yet allowed to talk about the project. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made reference to it just prior to the NFL draft Saturday. The movie is about the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, played by Costner, and his struggles to gain the No. 1 pick in the draft to save the franchise. As for the real NFL draft, Foster says he hasn’t watched any of it. He said the draft is all about replacing current players, and despite his star status, he doesn’t take anything for granted. “That’s the nature of the NFL, to see if they can upgrade at every position,” he says. “I’m no different. You have to make sure you let them know you’re the best option for the job.” But this weekend, it’s about helping some Albuquerque youngsters — and helping himself to a little R&R and grub. “I’m no A-list celebrity,” he says. “I get recognized every now and then when I go out, but for the most part I can just enjoy getting away and enjoy the green chile spots just like everybody else. That’s the thing I miss the most about Albuquerque. I’ve had chile and Mexican food everywhere. … This is the best Mexican food in the world.” — This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal