Arian Foster is arguably the most talked about member of the Houston Texans. His most popular attributes are that he is an undeniably powerful running back, 2010 NFL rushing leader, philosophy major and new member of the vegan family. Perhaps it is these last two characteristics that have caused sports pundits, and now CBS News, to anoint Arian Foster with the title of “Renaissance Man”, and “the Most Interesting Man in the NFL.” In fact, a significant portion of Foster’s September 5, 2012 CBS News interview dealt with his off-season tweets about quantum physics, philosophical musings, and his new diet. Appropriately, the well-balanced Texans star has always shrugged off any deep discussion about his diet. He poignantly notes that “no one cared about what [he]ate last season.” Point well made, sir.
Despite the intent behind labeling Foster as “intriguing,” his appeal stretches much farther than his personal preferences. One would think his phoenix-like tale would be enough to pique the interest of any sports enthusiast. Consider this: Foster signed on with Houston as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and spent most of the season on the practice squad. He started at running back during the 2010 season, shattered many franchise records, and rushed for 230 yards, scoring three times in the season opener. His rushing performance in that game ranked second only to the 1973 record set by O.J. Simpson. His 2011 numbers would have eclipsed the 2010 numbers if it was not for a hamstring injury that sidelined him for three games. He now holds a piece of paper that says the Texans will pay him $43.5 million. That should be notable enough, right?
But lately, the stories about Foster have strayed towards the abstract. Instead of talk about his statistics, there are countless discussions about his dinner menu, disdain for fantasy football, and other things that exist in his “alternate universe.” Most of this is rhetoric. When it comes down to it, his contributions on the field are what matter.
For the sake of argument, let’s consider that his skills, and not his peaceful demeanor, are the yin to the Texans’ yang. Accept that his ability to find the end zone provides enough zen energy for the Texans rather than his random tweets on philosophical pursuits. Acknowledge that his power up the middle sufficiently balances the chakra of the team week after week.
So when you look at it from this perspective, Arian Foster should not be considered the NFL’s “other” simply because of how he thinks or what he eats. Instead, he should be put in a separate category because of his sheer talent – that’s all. The problem with focusing too much energy on whether his stars are aligned, or what main dish he had with his “kale” slaw, is that if something were to go wrong, there is too much “other” stuff to blame that is essentially irrelevant. If he fails to rush for 200 yards in a game, there’s a sure bet that it’s not because his beets were not prepared correctly or because he stayed up pondering the meaning of life. It’s probably because he just had a bad game.
In the end, the hope for this year, for the sake of Foster and the Texans, is that there is less emphasis put on whether Foster counts unicorns in his sleep, and more emphasis on his effectiveness on the field. A peaceful guy? Sure. A freak of nature? Not so much. Hopefully people will stop thinking of him as the latter and just let him play.