With Heisman Trophy talk swirling each week, you hear about players such as Drew Brees, Michael Vick, LaDainian Tomlinson and Eric Crouch. With the early success of the UCLA Bruins, another player to factor into the equation is super blue-chip junior running back DeShaun Foster.
The 6-foot, 210-pounder exploded out of the gate this season, carrying the ball 42 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the Bruins' 35-24 upset of Alabama on Sept. 2. Then last weekend against Fresno State, Foster picked up 142 yards on 29 carries, again scoring a pair of touchdowns. A sure-handed pass-receiving option as well, he has totaled five catches so far.
|DeShaun Foster says he will return for his senior year at UCLA.|
With Foster, the question has never been ability, but rather durability. In '98, he finished the season with 673 yards rushing (averaging 5.3 per carry and scoring 10 TDs), the most ever by a Bruin true freshman, but he missed most of one game and all of another due to a sprained knee.
Then last year, he enjoyed several impressive performances, highlighted by his 100-yard effort on 19 carries against Stanford. Unfortunately, injuries also severely cut into his playing time. He was bothered much of the campaign with a high ankle sprain and was forced to sit out two games, while seeing very limited action in three other contests.
Recognizing the problem with remaining at full strength, Foster set out this past offseason to change things. He worked out diligently in the weight room, entering the 2000 season in the best shape of his football career. So far, the hard work and dedication has paid huge dividends. The Bruins are 2-0, and Foster is beginning to garner the national attention he deserves.
As UCLA prepared for its critical battle against Michigan at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, I spoke to the Bruins' talented junior:
Mel: What factors have contributed to your early success this season?
Foster: The offensive line is getting the job done. That's the key. I also entered the season with a lot to prove.
Mel: I guess you're referring to the durability question?
||I will be back at UCLA for my senior season. I want to graduate with my class. The NFL will be there. ”
Foster: That's right. I want to go out this year and prove that I can stay at full strength the entire way.
Mel: What have you done to give yourself a better opportunity to remain injury free?
Foster: First of all, I've just had some bad luck. The injuries were legit, not a hang nail. What I've done, though, is work out hard all summer. I've added strength and also lost a little weight. Last year I checked in at about 217. Right now, I'm at 210. I feel quicker at my current weight.
Mel: Are you at full strength for the Michigan game this Saturday?
Foster: Yes, I'm completely healthy and ready to go.
Mel: After two games, what are your team goals as well as your individual goals?
Foster: In terms of personal goals, I want to stay healthy and do everything in my power to help our team win. As far as team goals, we want to win the Pac-10 and also be in the running for the national championship. We were right there two years ago until the loss at Miami.
Mel: In order to achieve those team goals, the UCLA defense has to show significant improvement. Will that be the case?
Foster: I really noticed the improvement in practice. They stopped us all summer.
Mel: If you continue to post impressive rushing totals the rest of the way this season, will you be back for your senior year at UCLA?
Foster: I will be back at UCLA for my senior season. I want to graduate with my class. The NFL will be there.