Running back Arian Foster announced his retirement from the NFL Monday evening, and I can only hope some outlet gives him an opportunity to give his honest, thoughtful opinions that never shy away from controversy.
"If kneeling for your flag is disrespectful then kneeling for your God is disrespectful," Arian Foster said. pic.twitter.com/hpfzxw4meW
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) September 11, 2016
Foster’s openness oftentimes struck a nerve with a certain type of pundit. #tbt to the time The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre needlessly led Foster’s professed atheism as the lead-in to his sustaining a season-ending injury, for example.
Atheist Arian Foster ends the season with 163 yards, 1 fumble, 1 TD, torn achilleshttps://t.co/k1ar7nJpnx
He in Detroit next year? Denver?
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) October 26, 2015
Strong beliefs can alienate, in part because they hold up a mirror to our own images. Arian Foster’s had a way of doing that.
The Foster interview that will stick with me above all others has to be the presser he gave at Tennessee while speaking in…uh, Pterodactyl.
For the uninitiated, the Vols began the 2008 season riding a wave of heavy expectations. They were expected to win the SEC East, if not the SEC, if not the BCS championship. Things unraveled quickly. Really quickly. Like, Week 1 quickly.
Foster coughed up a fumble that proved costly in the Vols’ loss to a thoroughly mediocre UCLA team, setting the tone for a 2-4 start that set the stage for a historically bad campaign.
In the fourth loss — a 26-14 defeat at Georgia — Foster carried three times for three yards. Frustration boiled over the next week in practice, and the running back channeled his inner dinosaur.
The Tennessee starting tailback, a senior on the verge of becoming UT’s all-time leading rusher, was requested for media interviews. He had a demand: whoever interviewed him had to speak Pterodactyl, some made-up dinosaur language.
No interview was conducted.
It was kind of funny and it fit Foster’s quirky personality. But considering the environment and Foster’s recent demeanor, it quickly became sad.
“Veeeeek! Veeeeek! Veeeeek!” Foster shrieked.
The actual audio is difficult to track down. Keep in mind, smartphones weren’t as prevalent in 2008. I heard the clip eight years ago, and can say that yes, it is as hilarious as it reads.
And, oh, the phony hand-wringing that ensued after. I distinctly remember hearing one national radio show host come unglued about Foster’s character to an extent that should be reserved for discussing domestic abusers, but often isn’t.
No, a college kid behaving like a college kid is an injustice truly worthy of scorn. The backlash then probably explains Arian Foster borrowing from the Rasheed Wallace playbook a few years later.
Foster could have offered similar cliches following the 2008 Georgia, but his dinosaur screech provided a far more enlightening peak at the state of Tennessee football. The Vols had gone off the rails, and never got back on en route to Phil Fulmer’s dismissal.
Such is Arian Foster. He can tell a complete story with his eloquence, but convey the message just as effectively in a pterodactyl call.