'The Mountain' Is Coming to College Football

Meet 17-year-old Bryce Foster, the 6'5", 330-pound offensive lineman (and potential Olympian) in the 2021 class that everyone is after.
photo of Adam KramerAdam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterApril 13, 2020

There's a sound the human body makes when it's properly pancaked.      

It isn't as loud or pronounced as one might expect, but when a man—or in this instance, a teenager—weighing in excess of 300 pounds plants his weight and momentum purposefully on an opponent, it is distinct.

"There's this big huff of breath," says Bryce Foster, a 17-year-old with ample experience. "And all you can hear is their soul leaving their body."

You can hear him smile through the phone. Hear his pride and playfulness. While some take pride in touchdowns and yardage and other stats like that, Foster takes pride in something else. Pancakes are his greatest commodity, and right now business is booming.

They call him "The Mountain." The nickname originated with his older brother, Braden, who was an avid fan of Game of Thrones. In the popular TV show, Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane—spoiler alert incoming—uses his mythical size and might to extinguish almost everything he's asked to destroy.

Only Foster isn't mythical. He's a junior offensive lineman at Taylor High School in Katy, Texas, and one of the most coveted players in the class of 2021. Rivals has him as a 5-star recruit and ranks ninth nationally at any position in his class, while 247Sports' composite has him as a 4-star and ranks him 69th.

Foster won't turn 18 until December, but he already stands 6'5" and weighs in at somewhere around 330 pounds, depending on the day.

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Despite his size, Foster has been clocked as fast as 4.93 in the 40-yard dash—a time that feels herculean given his build. He also bench-pressed 225 pounds 26 times at a recruiting camp last year. That's when the nickname really started to take off. It was a performance that would have placed him in the top 12 at this year's NFL combine among offensive linemen.

"We're hearing regularly from coaches that he's a once-in-a-generation type recruit," says Taylor assistant coach and recruiting coordinator J Jensen.

And it's not just on the football field that he excels. In track and field, Foster is widely regarded as one of the most gifted high school shot-putters and discus-throwers in the nation.

"If he wants to, I think he'll ultimately throw in the Olympics," says Taylor track and field coach Brian Derringer.

Both will be a part of his future, in college and perhaps beyond—a future destined to be stockpiled with personality and, of course, pancakes. The question is where.


247Sports

Most afternoons these days, the Mountain spends hours inside a crammed garage down the road from his Katy, Texas, home. It is here, once he's done all the work for his finance and U.S. history classes, that he trains his body.

With his high school and weight rooms closed due to the coronavirus, Foster and a friend work out inside the garage that is equipped with dumbbells, weights, a bench and a rowing machine for cardio. While it was not the way he expected to spend his spring, it'll have to do for now.

For as highly regarded as he is in both track and football, the weight room is where Foster thrives. He already owns a squat max of 545 pounds and a max bench press of 405 pounds—figures he assures are nowhere near the peak. 

While he won the Strongest Man Challenge at Rivals recruiting camp in Atlanta last June with his 26 reps at 225, he wasn't content with the result. He hopes to hit 35 reps by the end of the year.

At this year's NFL combine, only two offensive linemen did more reps than that.

"I think it's rare to be as powerful and strong as he is and still have the functional athleticism that he does," says 247Sports director of scouting Barton Simmons. "He's one of the more destructive, disruptive offensive linemen you're ever going to find on the high school level."

Foster's commitment timeline is fuzzy at the moment, given how much the coronavirus has altered the recruiting process. He has narrowed his list of schools to Oklahoma, LSU, Oregon, Texas A&M and Texas.

His brother, having gone through the recruiting process himself, is providing as much guidance as he can. While Braden was nowhere close to the size of younger brother Bryce in high school—and not nearly as athletic, he admits—he still earned a football scholarship to Yale before eventually transferring to Texas A&M and walking on to the football team in 2014.

For Braden, earning the attention of schools as an offensive lineman was a multiyear task. For his brother, the interest started to build the moment he set foot in a camp and coaches sized him up.

While the majority of the feedback Bryce has received has been overwhelmingly positive, Braden says the two have read and heard concern that Bryce might be close to his ceiling and unable to get much stronger.

It's an unusual criticism to place upon a high school athlete—that he might be too strong too early for his own good. To counter that, the two created and regularly use the #notmaxedout hashtag across social media. 

"He's a junior in high school and already has college offensive line strength," Braden says. "He's a college strength coach's dream."


Brian Perroni / 247Sports

Back to the pancakes.

Last fall, Foster finished with 112 of them during his junior season—a record for Taylor High School. It's a number he recites fluently, as if he's been counting them his whole life. But some pancakes are more valuable than others. In this instance, 82 of the 112 pancakes were up to his tremendously elevated standards.

"My favorite type of pancakes are the ones with the syrup on top," Foster says. "And I had 82 of those.

"So, the syrup, right? That's when you roll over the top of them, too," he continues. "It's kind of like when a receiver goes up and catches the ball over a corner. It's our version of 'Mossing' someone."

Physically, Foster looks like he was born and raised to play offensive line. The spotty beard. The shaggy hair. The big, protruding barrel chest. "And the biggest calves I've ever seen on a human being," his brother says.

Those gifts are accompanied by an attitude that puts them to work—a mix of cockiness and assuredness, with just the right amount of football nastiness that offensive line coaches crave.

"It's a lot of fun when you're bullying someone out there and they don't have an answer," Foster says. "Especially if they were talking to you beforehand. You just give them that look after flipping them on their back and all you can do is laugh. And it's the greatest feeling ever."

After each game, Bryce and Braden will go to Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers. As they eat, they'll relive their favorite celebrations from the night—something they plan together before games and execute after big blocks and important plays. They'll also watch film. 

"We'll be watching plays, and I'll think, 'Bryce, you're kind of a dick out there,'" Braden says through laughter. "'Why did you do that?' He has a switch that he flips on the field. But off the field, he couldn't be more outgoing. He knows what's important."

Bryce is still cocky off the field, Braden explains, but in a charming and endearing way. Playful. Goofy. Caring. "Just great to be around," adds Taylor football head coach Chad Simmons.

Like most teenagers, he plays video games. His current go-to is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

He owns a Molly fish named Zebra, which he purchased when the coronavirus outbreak began in search of company.

He loves food, which is something he's not shy about. His favorite restaurant? "Honestly, anywhere with a buffet," he says. Although if he had to pick one place, it would be Willy Burger in Katy. His typical order? A No. 47 (cheeseburger with grilled onions and mustard) that he turns into a double, plus onion rings and a funnel cake.

"The funnel cake slaps," he assures for those planning their next visit.


Shea Dixon / 247Sports

Derringer remembers the first day he saw the Mountain in the wild. It was at a track meet last spring, months before he knew he would be his coach. At the time, Derringer was the track coach at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land, Texas.

He was blown away by Foster's size. But more jarring was how rapidly and violently his body moved during each throw.

"When you see Bryce for the first time, you kind of get star-struck," Derringer says. "You can just tell by looking at him that this is going to be an NFL veteran. I've never seen somebody so big and so athletic. And it's shocking to see him move.

"There's not a good way to describe it. It's superhuman."

Since Foster's freshman year, the shot put and discus have shared the spotlight with football. His passion for both is what makes this spring so challenging, with track season in limbo due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There's a chance the season will be salvaged in May, according to Derringer, but if not, Foster's goal of becoming a six-time medalist would be jeopardized.

As a sophomore, Foster finished third in the state in discus and second in shot put. This year, he hit personal bests in the discus (198.5') and shot put (63.5') that rank him as one of the elite throwers in the nation in both events.

"He wants to beat the Texas state record, and then he wants to go after the national record," Derringer says. "I am blessed to be able to work with him. And when I say work with him, I get to go out there and watch."

While the growing trend has been for many elite high school football players to enroll early in the winter of their senior seasons, Foster has other plans. With much of this track and field season lost, he refuses to miss out on next spring and one final opportunity to compete at the high school level.

Track and field has been on nearly equal footing with football in terms of his college decision, too. Football programs that are pursuing him, for the most part, welcome the chance for him to compete in both sports when he arrives—all except one major program that Foster refuses to name, to avoid "throwing shade." He was told by this program that he wouldn't be allowed to play both, and he hasn't spoken to it since.

"I want to do both when I go to college," Foster says. "I want to bring a national championship home for football as well as track and field. I think that'd be a pretty cool thing to do."

As bold as that might sound, he's willing to go bolder. In the year 2024, Foster will be draft-eligible. A few months later, the Summer Olympics are scheduled to take place in Paris.

"It's way out there," he says, "but I think it'd be pretty insane if I were drafted in the first round and competed in the Olympics during the same year."

Photo courtesy of Bryce Foster

There's a play the Taylor coaching staff still laughs about. It's a moment that no matter how many times they rewatch it, the outcome feels as mythical as the nickname Foster has commandeered. 

Before the team's playoff upset over Memorial High School last November, coaches made the decision to move Foster from his normal spot at guard to center.

The plan was to match him up against the opponent's most talented player—a nose guard they were concerned would disrupt the offense. Up until that week, Foster had never snapped a football.

As the game played out, Foster was remarkably comfortable. Then on one play, despite having never played the position, he knocked down the nose tackle, two linebackers and a cornerback.

"All four of them exploded," says Derringer, who is also an assistant on the football team. "This is the most amazing clip I've ever seen."

It promises to only be the beginning of Foster turning heads.

Having just visited Oklahoma, he has plans to visit LSU and eventually the other schools in his top five when time and travel restrictions allow. His original idea was to commit on his 18th birthday—the day before the early signing period—in December.

The Mountain can't help but see beyond that next step, too. The NFL. The Olympics. The possibility to blend his two greatest loves together as a long as he possibly can.

But before then? More pancakes. With syrup.

            

Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @KegsnEggs.

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