Artrel Foster acknowledges that he wasn’t 100 percent healthy late last season, but after waiting so long to get on the football field, he was going to do everything he could to stay on it.
The redshirt senior was a first-time starter last season at corner, appearing in 13 games, making 12 starts. Before that, he had had one career start, which came late in his sophomore season. Like many in the program, he had to wait his turn, which wasn’t easy. After all, at Meadville (Pa.) High, he was a four-year starter, a hot-shot running back who also played cornerback.
“Going from starting all four years to coming here and watching, it was definitely tough but it humbled me,” Foster said.
It also toughened him, and he vowed that if he got the chance, he would make the most of it.
That opportunity came last year, and Foster indeed ran with it. Paired with Nate Hairston, who went on to become a fifth-round draft choice of the Indianapolis Colts. Foster was the one teams often picked on, but he stood his ground.
Then in the ninth game of the season, against Cincinnati, he hurt his shoulder. Foster sat out the next game against Connecticut, and then Temple had a bye week.
He returned for the remaining four games, including a stellar performance in Temple’s 34-10 victory over Navy in the American Athletic Conference championship game. Against Navy, he had four tackles as Temple bottled up the triple option attack of the Midshipmen.
Foster says he wasn’t 100 percent after the injury.
“Not at all,” he said.
After the season, one in which Temple went 10-4 for the second straight year to tie a single-season record for wins, Foster underwent surgery. He wasn’t able to do much in spring practice, which was frustrating since there was a new staff led by head coach Geoff Collins, but Foster had shown enough in his junior year to stay in good standing.
“I was still doing some individual drills, but it was not the same as being on the field with the defense and offense going full speed,” he said. “It was a challenge, especially coming back the first couple of practices” during preseason camp.
Foster and graduate transfer Mike Jones are likely to start at the corners, part of a secondary that might be Temple’s most talented position group. That also includes safeties Sean Chandler and Delvon Randall. The work off the field by Foster has impressed the new staff as much as what he has done on it.
“I see a guy who is unbelievably smart, disciplined and tough,” Temple defensive coordinator Taver Johnson said. “He picked up the scheme quickly, especially for not getting any reps in the spring.”
At 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds, Foster is known for packing a pop as much as he is for his coverage skills.
“He is physical — you love physical corners — and he does a nice job,” Johnson said.
Foster’s enthusiasm in returning to preseason camp was rivaled by his coaches’.
“Watching him on tape, you kind of got excited about a guy like that,” Temple defensive backs coach Cory Robinson said.
What Robinson saw on tape, he has been viewing each day at practice.
“He has been everything we expected him to be and more,” Robinson said.
One thing Foster insists he isn’t thinking about is the NFL, even though he is considered a viable prospect. After waiting so long for regular playing time, he’s not about to look that far ahead.
“I just want to win,” Foster said. “I am a team guy, and that is what comes first.”