Interview with D.J. Foster
Q: Walk us through your formative years growing up in Scottsdale, Arizona. How did you first get involved with football?
A: Growing up in Scottsdale, sports have always been a huge part of my life and my dad would get me involved with AAU basketball and traveling baseball. So I played all sports growing up. The older I got in high school, I saw that I had a very good talent for football. I just had a passion for football and what it brings to me and how it changed my life being on a bunch of teams with a bunch of brothers and developing those relationships. It was something I couldn’t get from any other sport. I just loved going through high school and being at Arizona State University. I’ve been blessed and very lucky to be a part of some amazing programs.
Q: So you were a five-star recruit five years ago and you had offers from Cal, Nebraska, Oregon, USC, etc. Why did you choose Arizona State?
A: I took all my officials. I enjoyed the process and learned a lot. But at the time, I wasn’t ready to leave my family. I wanted to be able to play in front of my family; they’re such a big part of my life. Over the four years, running out of Tillman Tunnel at Arizona State and being able to look up into the stands and see my mom, my dad, my cousins, my aunts, all my friends and family there…being able to talk to them after the game, I mean, that’s what I had envisioned in making my decision.
Q: So you didn’t feel any added pressure with the fact that you were performing with friends and family right there in the stands?
A: No. It wasn’t too bad and my family was very supportive. I mean, there were times when being a local kid from the community, that there was pressure on me to go out and perform. I was playing as a true freshman as well and ASU was going through a transition. Coach [Todd] Graham was just coming out to Arizona State. So just being able to go out there, perform and try to get the program back to where I knew it could be and the whole city and the whole community knew it could be as well.
Q: How was your relationship with coach Graham? He’s known as being a bit of a stickler for rules by not allowing his players to wear hats, headphones and earrings inside the athletic center.
A: Coach [Dennis] Erickson recruited me throughout the whole process and then he got fired. Coach Graham probably had a about a month or two to kind of recruit me and develop that kind of relationship before my commitment date. I remember the first time I met coach Graham, I sat down with him and coach Norvell, the offensive coordinator at the time, and just the stuff he talked about with me…faith, family and character. Those are the three biggest things in my life and the three things I carry with me every day and that’s kind of how I live my life. Just hearing him talk about that and how it was a family environment and seeing his passion to win over the past four years. I mean, it could look different from an outside perspective, but at the end of the day, I know how much he cares about his players and how much he wants to win and do whatever it takes to win. That’s something that’s hard to find in a lot of people. I enjoyed my time with him. He taught me a lot of life lessons.
Q: You were a big part of a high-scoring attack. Can you talk about the offense and your role in it?
A: I loved the offense. I felt like it was made for me being kind of a hybrid guy and being able to play running back and in the slot. It’s a spread offense with a very high tempo. We were running on the average 90 to 100 plays per game. We were always moving; it was fast-paced. For me being a running back in the offense, they had two-back sets at times and it needed me to be in the backfield and in the slot as well, where they needed me to win one-on-one matchups with linebackers and safeties. There was a lot on my plate as a freshman, but it helped me grow very fast with the coaches that I had. Being both a running back and a receiver that helps me become more of a student of the game.
Q: Did you have a lot of blitz pickup responsibilities?
A: I did. It was something we took pride in. There were times when we played teams like Stanford who were bringing in all types of blitzes and stuff. I understand blitzes. I feel like I’m very good at reading the blitz and picking up slants and it helps me as a receiver understanding rotating safeties and where the pressure could come from as a running back. It all kind of played together as far as understanding certain schemes and how to pick up those blitzes. Then there’s technique and form and that grows over time. I’m now better at that.
Q: You had two back-to-back 10-win seasons as a sophomore and junior, but fell to 6-7 I your senior campaign. How do you put this past year in perspective?
A: It was an interesting year. We added a lot of new pieces to the puzzle. It was kind of a transition year, but we had the talent to do it. In the past couple of those 10-win seasons, we were on the better end of some calls and that’s the way it played out. Sometimes we would get the calls and sometimes we wouldn’t. There were times we struggled this year and we didn’t get the calls we were hoping for. We didn’t make the plays we usually make. It cost us some games. I remember there were four or five games this past season where we were leading going into the fourth quarter We played and competed against every team, but we couldn’t close it and that’s why we struggled this past season.
Q: Can you describe your transition from running back to receiver?
A: It was definitely an interesting transition. I mean being in the running back room…you know…I played [some] receiver my first three years, but I was still in the running back room with the running backs coach. But my senior year, making that transition as a wide receiver, it was tough because I was a senior leader, I was a captain. But there were times when you had to ask a freshman, “Hey man, what do I got on this?”But I actually loved it. There were times when it was hard, but it helped me grow as a man; it helped me grow as a leader…and it helped me grow as a captain. I learned a lot being someone that those guys looked up to, but I also needed their help. I think I brought great chemistry to our receiver group. Football wise, it was about being able to speak a whole new language as a receiver and being able to read coverages a little better. I mean it helped me as running back and a receiver. It just helped me out a lot in the long run with being able to understand how defensive schemes work. It helped my mindset as a football player.
Q: Going into the draft, do you see yourself as more of a running back or receiver?
A: I’m open to everything. I see myself as a hybrid. I think I can be a change-of-pace running back , second string, third string or even a starting running back. I think I can do that. I mean, in the NFL now, a lot of running backs are catching out of the backfield. That’s what I can do great. I can run inside zone, outside zone—I’ve done everything. I also think I can be a slot receiver for any team. That’s why I can add value to a lot of teams being able to play both positions. Being that I’ve already done that in college, I understand a playbook and football, especially the defenses. I can also play special teams. I have the speed of a wide receiver and the strength of a running back. That’s something that can help me in the return game and it can help me covering a punt.
Q: With your skill set, which NFL player are you visualizing yourself as?
A: I love Shane Vereen and what he did over the years. I’ve always been a Percy Harvin fan with what he’s done by taking hand offs, sweeps and then being a slot receiver and the return guy. But I really like Shane Vereen’s game. I think he’s done an amazing job especially with how the Patriots used him. I’m just impressed by his technique. I also love Golden Tate as a receiver.
Q: Did you know Golden Tate was also a running back when he first went to Notre Dame before he moved to receiver?
A: He’s a bigger slot guy with the strength and power to integrate with route running. I think I’m improving still overall as a receiver. I’ve gotten so much better in the past couple of months with just being a receiver and a receiver’s coach working on my skills.
Q: Being a leader and a better student of the game are important to you. How have you improved in those areas?
A: I would say I’ve always been a leader by example. The coaches have really pushed me over the years especially when I became more of a leader with the way teammates perceived me and looked at me. I needed to kind of step up and be vocal at times and that’s something that my coaches pushed me to do over my past couple of years as a junior and senior when I became more of a veteran. It’s about letting the young guys know where they need to be, what they need to do and they can push themselves by giving them a better way to be successful on the field and in the classroom.
Q: What would you say is the most underrated part of your game?
A: I think people forget that I have played in every single game. I played in all 53 games. That shows my toughness. I mean, in the NFL, you have to learn how to take care of your body. That’s a huge thing. You can’t do anything without your body feeling right. I take care of my body and continuously go out there and perform. The thing I was most proud of was being able to strap it up and put on that uniform in 53 games in all four years.
Q: Your combine numbers were different from your pro day measurables (4.47 and 4.49 40 times, 36-inch VJ and 9-foot-9-inch BJ). Why is it that so many prospects do better at their pro day?
A: The combine is a four-day thing; it requires 24-hour focus. It’s a stressful time, I think, in a lot of guys’ lives. You’re moving around, you’re on your sheet, you’re doing interviews. I think for a lot of guys, it’s hard to stay in that mindset that on the fourth day, we have to go out there and perform and run and stuff and be active. It’s definitely a tough process. I think for guys on their pro day, they go home, they’re back in a familiar environment they lived in for years. You’re more relaxed, more comfortable and you don’t have the stress of the three days prior as far as doing interviews and the medical appointments, the doctors and all that. I think a lot of guys can be a lot more relaxed and a lot more focused.
Q: What are your favorite routes as a receiver?
A: I love my mid-range routes and being able to run digs and quick slants. Me as a running back with my change-of-direction quickness, I’d say running curls and running crossing routes. I’ve done a lot better at running the deep routes, the home-run stuff. But I think those mid-range and intermediate routes…that’s what will be asked of me.
Q: When you said curl route, I immediately thought of Randall Cobb. Do you get the chance to watch much of him and the Packers for that matter?
A: One of my good friends Damarious Randall plays for them, so especially this past season I watched them. As for Randall Cobb, when I made that transition, I watched him. Seeing his game, how he’s very explosive as a returner as well and how he can change directions; watching him on his routes taught me a lot in my transition.
Next: Which Packers does Foster enjoy watching?