JaysonFosterPaytonwmvJayson Foster receives Walter Payton Award.
Jayson Foster didn't need an award to let everyone know he's one of the best college football players in the country. We already knew.
Any Georgia Southern fan who has been around since Jayson's first moments of Eagle football knew from the second he touched the ball this could be a special career. No one could have expected the saga that would ensue.
After two straight jaw-dropping seasons in 2004 and 2005, J-Fos disappeared in 2006 under a new coach with a new system. The Eagles went 3-8. Foster went first class.
"Anything I can do to help the team win," Foster would say, interview after interview, game after game, loss after loss. If the coach wanted him at wide receiver, running back, kick returner, practice squad, bench, water boy, concession stands, ticket counter, scapegoat — Jayson just looked everyone right in the eye and said — "Anything I can do to help the team win."
The students, the fans, the alumni, the community, especially the team — all suffered. Somewhere under a cloak of all the right answers we suspect Foster was suffering, too.
Then somehow, by the grace of Erk, another new coach was brought in. This one decided to put this humble young man at quarterback during spring practice. They called it their "Ghost Package." Either because Foster was being excavated from seasons past or because someone recognized this kid could go into a pile, vanish, than reappear 30 yards later.
Thus, the resurrection began.
Slowly but surely No. 4 became the full-time QB. The rest is legend.
What Foster did next won't happen for a long time. Not just at Georgia Southern, but at any school.
Along the way he shredded Coastal Carolina (six touchdowns), stunned Appalachian State (175 yards rushing, 41 yards receiving and 14 passing), broke The Citadel's heart (two touchdowns in a five-minute stretch in the fourth quarter totaling 95 yards) and willed Southern's way to a win over Wofford. Foster gained two yards on a fourth-and-1 in Spartanburg on a play where tight end Charlie Giacomarro still isn't sure what really happened.
In the home finale against Furman he took a hit which turned him into a helicopter on a fourth-down run to keep GSU's miracle hopes alive. It was just another game in which Foster did everything within his 164-pound body to win a football game.
GSU finished 7-4, restoring faith to a demoralized fan base. And the smiles on Foster's face were back, too, and that was worth the price of admission any day.
Foster holds record after record after record. Team, conference, division and NCAA. But nobody remembers records in football. They remember moments — and Foster gave us millions.
I remember one on a punt return in Paulson. Foster was headed down the sideline towards the field house and towards another touchdown. There was one defender closing fast at a 45-degree angle from behind. Foster's eyes were keyed straight on the pylon. There was no way he saw this guy coming. Then Jayson stopped. He just stopped. The defender flew by him out of bounds and Jayson took the ball the rest of the way for six. It was so unbelievable, people laughed. Out loud. For a while.
There are other moments, like the time I went to check out practice this fall, as I do on occasion. Afterwards I was caught helping a fellow media member do some TV work. There I was wearing my 'Foster 4 Heisman' shirt, uncomfortably right in front of the kid who I was promoting.
"This is a different Foster," I tried to joke to Jayson. He just laughed, and I imagine thought, "What a dork."
But Jayson never said that. He never says anything like that. And that what puts Jayson above the rest. In an age of glorified personalities, crime-ridden athletes and faulty role models, Foster, like the defenders chasing him, never came close to being anything but a stand-up individual.
Now an alumnus of GSU, there's no doubt Foster has a bright future in whatever he does. There's also no doubt we'll never forget the amazing No. 4