Alabama in the Pros

Former Alabama Backup Robert Foster Living NFL Cinderella Story

History judges a man greater who is knocked down by circumstances but doesn’t stay down. Robert Foster is one of those men. Read this great story of success

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

As a longtime writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, I was extremely excited to see the Tide sign Robert Foster. In 2013 he was the number two receiving prospect in the nation, a dead flat speedster with shifty moves and great hands. I was sure he was going to be the next great receiver at Alabama, maybe giving Julio Jones records a shot. Yes, he was just that good.

But because of the talent there and some nagging injuries, he was redshirted his freshman. His redshirt freshman season showed some glimpses of what he could do, but he was never a main target or first team starter.

In his sophomore season he got off to a good start and he was building to become a real go to guy, but in the third game of that season, he suffered a season ending shoulder injury.

Three years had now passed and Foster still hadn’t lived to his high school ranking and stardom, he was getting discouraged.

Now he was in his junior year on a team with ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley being the stars. There was also a graduate transfer, Gehrig Dieter getting lots of reps along with Cam Sims and Trevon Diggs. Foster was languishing behind all those guys in receptions and playing time and thought about leaving the team. They were indeed dark days.

Though I never did a formal interview with him, I caught him for a few seconds on the field after a game and told him, “I don’t know when, but I’m sure one day your star is going to shine. I’m sure of it.” He patted my shoulder and smiled and said, “Thanks, I’m hoping to see that too.”

But many thought he may take his speed and talent and leave to be “THE” guy somewhere else and show the world just what he could do with the starring role.

But when media days rolled around in the spring, Foster explained why he chose to stay at Alabama. “One thing I never want to do is quit,” Foster told AL.com at Alabama media day. “I want to be a leader, not just for my team and not just for my receivers or any of the offense. One thing I’ve noticed is quitting won’t get you nowhere in life, so I hope my mentality will help everyone, the young kids and (everyone) in general.”

But still, with so many stars ahead on him in the depth chart, he didn’t get the stardom he wanted or the stats he needed to impress the NFL scouts. He went undrafted in the 2018 NFL draft, but Saban and his staff kept the phones busy and told everyone who would listen that Foster was the undrafted jewel that some team was going to be lucky to get.

They didn’t have to tell too many people. His former offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll knew the talent that was there and was vocal to have the powers that be give him a hard look. Foster helped himself by running a 4.41 second 40 yard dash, 5th best among all receivers in the draft, but the NFL concentrates more on folks with big stats than potential.

In the end though, Buffalo gave him a contract as an undrafted free agent after no one else came calling.

Failing to really impress and not getting the opportunity he needed, by October he was waived from the team but signed to the practice squad. Here was Foster seeing the dream slip away one more time. He could see things getting near rock bottom, but instead of feeling sorry for himself, instead on blaming others for his misfortunes, he remembered that he was a guy who didn’t quit.

He impressed his coaches and fellow players for not taking the demotion as a reason not to give his all. He worked harder than ever and by November when the team needed him to fill in again and he was re-signed to the active roster, he just had a can do attitude and determined that he was going to be unstoppable.

In November Foster recorded his first 100 yard receiving game against the New York Jets. In his next game against the Jacksonville Jaguars he got his first NFL touchdown, a long 75 yard pass where he got to use that speed to leave defenders in the dirt chasing him. When he faced the Jets again a few weeks later, he notched another 100 yard game and followed up that game with yet another 100 yard plus game against Detroit including another touchdown in a closely fought 14-13 win. In the last game of the season, Foster scored another touchdown against Miami, finishing the season as a red hot NFL threat.

His late season surge got him lots of attention, and he was name by Pro Football Focus as a member of the All Rookie Team as an offensive flex player.

Now going into training camp this year, he is far removed from the guy who the NFL didn’t draft and fought to get signed as an undrafted free agent who was cut from the team in his first and only year in pro football.

He is now a veteran that the offense will use as one of their keys to build their offense around. He’s going to have a chance to build on his late season rookie season success and finally show folks what he can do with a full season as a guy who gets steady attempts.

I’m writing this story to let folks know that while this might seem like a Cinderella story of a guy that never caught a good break and made good, it’s not that kind of story at all. Unlike Cinderella, Foster’s success had nothing to do with magic and everything from hard work and an “I won’t quit” attitude.

It’s proof that even if no one else believes in you but yourself, then you aren’t defeated. Foster never had the career at Alabama that he wanted, but it may have been the college experience he needed to be the man and player he is today. He now knows he can overcome any adversity. Whatever happens in Foster’s the remaining years of Foster’s career, he will always be a winner. You can count on that.

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Larry Burton has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter

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