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The amazing Mr. Foster
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Georgia Southern quarterback Jayson Foster is up for this year’s Walter Payton Award, given to the nation’s best offensive Division I football player in the Championship Subdivision. - photo by FILE
    Week in and week out, Georgia Southern’s opponents know exactly who they need to stop.
    One problem though — they can’t catch him.
    That’s been the case since Jayson Foster first suited up for the Eagles as a redshirt freshman in 2004, and the awe-inspiring quarterback is in the process of capping an outstanding career with a spectacular senior season. Last weekend at Wofford he further strengthened his campaign for the Walter Payton Award, given annually to the FCS’s top offensive player. Legendary GSU running back Adrian Peterson is the only other Eagle that has captured the honor (1999).
    “I don’t feel like there’s another player at our level of college football that deserves the award more than Jayson,” junior receiver Raja Andrews said. “If I had to give it to him, it wouldn’t even be a question.”
    Opposing coaches wouldn’t argue.    
    “I call him the most exciting player in football — any level, any division,” said Furman’s Bobby Lamb, whose squad visits Statesboro for a 3:30 p.m. game Saturday. “He’s probably the best player pound-for-pound that I’ve seen. He can dominate a game like no other. It all starts with him. He’s the X-factor. He makes all the difference in the world.”
    Said Wofford coach Mike Ayers: “He’s got my vote. He had my vote before we played him and nothing changed. He’s one of those guys that if you get out of position, you’re toast.”
    The Terriers can attest to that after last Saturday when Foster burned their defense for a career-high 279 rushing yards and three touchdowns, including one for 82 yards and another for 72. He ran for 174 yards in the first quarter and 232 in the opening half, both Southern Conference records. But perhaps his most important gain of the afternoon was a 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 with 1:22 remaining, which allowed the Eagles (7-2, 4-2) to run out the clock and start celebrating the upset of then-No. 10 Wofford.
    The outing was the latest of what’s been another amazing year for the senior, who broke loose for two crucial fourth-quarter touchdowns a week earlier in a win over The Citadel. And let’s not forget the second game of the season when Foster shred Coastal Carolina for a school-record six rushing touchdowns and 253 yards on the ground.
    “He’s amazing,” said senior offensive lineman Russell Orr, a member Foster’s recruiting class. “He makes us look good up front. We can miss a block, and he just jukes them real quick. On fourth down last week when we had to win the game, he gave a little extra. I think he’s done that all season, giving a little extra because he wants to win just as bad as anybody.”
    Foster’s dominance this fall has been due to his return to quarterback after being relegated to receiver last season. First-year GSU coach Chris Hatcher wisely moved Foster back to the helm for his senior year, and the move has been priceless and has played a significant role in the Eagles’ 7-2 start. Foster has four 200-yard rushing games so far this season, and his 174.1 rushing yards a game leads the SoCon and ranks second nationally. He also accounts for 14.2 points a week, good for first in the league and third in the nation.
    “He’s one of the best players I’ve been fortunate enough to coach,” Hatcher said. “He’s the backbone of our football team. He makes us go along with the offensive linemen. Every time he touches the ball, there’s a chance he can make a big play.”
    The Canton native has already surpassed his rushing total from 2005 when he ran for 1,481 yards while quarterbacking the Eagles’ triple option offense. Foster has 1,567 rushing yards this season, second most in NCAA history by a quarterback. He is 35 yards away from Matt Cannon, who set the single-season record in 2000 at Southern Utah.
    But running is not the only thing defenders have to worry about when it comes to Foster. He’s hit 88 of 131 passing attempts for 906 yards and three touchdowns.
    “With Jayson at the lead, the possibilities are unlimited,” Andrews said. “Who doesn’t he amaze? Jayson is Jayson. He is Mr. Amazing. Everything he does, everything I see, I try to imitate.”
    Said senior running back Dusty Reddick: “Ever since I’ve gotten here, he’s been a playmaker. He’s been so fast, just making crazy plays. Every week it just seems like he finds a way to make another crazy play.”
    Just as noteworthy as Foster’s performances on the field is his demeanor off of it. Though he’s the most feared player in the Southern Conference, Foster never boasts, brags or acts better than anyone else. And never, not once, did he complain publicly about his reduced role last fall. His parents, Kevin and Constance, deserve a pat on the back for a job well done.
    “He’s a great guy, really humble,” Orr said. “Everybody would think that as much fame as he gets he’d have a big head, but he’s a great fellow.”
    “I’m just happy to know him,” Reddick said.
    Said Andrews: “You can’t find a better player, a better person than Jayson. He inspires me to do great things, not just on the field but in the classroom and everything like that. I just try to stay in his hip pocket and learn a lot from him.”
    Foster’s chances for the Payton Award will increase if the Eagles can ride their current three-game winning into the playoffs, but the senior has already proved worthy.
    “If you just look at what he’s done for his football team, he’s probably the most-valuable guy to a team than any other team in the country,” Lamb said. “The ball just seems to be in his hands at critical times, and he always makes the critical play. I’d vote for him right now.”

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.