In talking to Arian Foster of the Houston Texans as part of a Subway promotion, I learned something I had forgotten in the two years since I last spoke to him, as a member of the Tennessee Volunteers and a potential 2009 NFL draft pick...
He's really funny.
If you do more than a handful of interviews, you begin to hear the same answers over and over again. The script gets old. So when a player remembers your name, laughs with you and gives honest answers, it's pretty dang refreshing.
Refreshing. There's a word that many fans of the Texans would use to describe the addition of Foster to the high-powered offense in Houston last fall. Previously known for the Matt Schaub-to-Andre Johnson connection, Foster brought legitimacy to the Texans backfield last season while leading the NFL in rushing.
What does Foster expect in 2011?
"I'm just a chess piece, Matt. I'll do what they tell me and go in when they send me in."
Wait...where's the ego? Where is one of the most underpaid men in the NFL demanding 25 carries per game and millions of dollars?
You won't find it here, not from the ESPY winner for "Best Performance Under Pressure."
I did ask Foster about his contract, which pays him a lowly $480,000 next year. His reply was humbling.
"I can't worry about that. I am tied to the Texans as an exclusive rights free agent and I know they'll take care of me."
Again, no ego here.
OK, how about the Colts? How can Foster and his Texans finally beat the Colts?
"Well, we did split with them last year (laughs). How can we beat the Colts? By scoring more points (laughs). Honestly, you just have to keep (Peyton) Manning off the field and control the clock with some old-school football—grind it out."
Foster is a realist, and his level of humility and laid-back approach are the opposite of what you see on the football field, where he is a bruising back with the speed to run away from defenders.
And Foster has a heart, too. That's why he's working with Subway in Los Angeles before the ESPY Awards. Foster and "Subway superstar" Jared Fogle teamed up to serve the restaurant's new BBQ Pulled Pork sandwiches at an event where customers could "enjoy lunch outdoors, ride a mechanical bull and participate in traditional backyard BBQ games including horseshoe and cornhole."
It wasn't just a promo event, though; Foster was adamant that giving back was the real cause. The event marks the launch of the Subway “Pullin’ for a Cause” initiative, a national “text to donate” campaign benefiting the WAFB whereby consumers who text “FOOD” to 27722 donate $10. Each donation made through the end of July triggers a matching donation from Subway and would benefit the West Alabama Food Bank.
So, yes, Foster is refreshing—as a person and as one of the best running backs in the NFL.