Most at Rutgers remember Eric Foster as the heart of a 2006 and 2007 defensive line, and locker room leader. His 2006 “I love it” chant has hundreds of thousands of views and he took home All-American honors at the end of the season.
But in 2004, Foster was just another frustrated red-shirt freshman after a 4-7 season, five-game losing streak and sixth-place finish in the Big East.
Back at his college home for a special 10-year anniversary ceremony, Foster “absolutely” sees the same foundation under Chris Ash that he saw under Greg Schiano in 2003 and 2004.
“I think we won maybe three or four games and it's a process,” he said. “It starts with the players. We created the culture we dreamed about. In training camp we felt it. … I appreciate all of the coaches, but we didn't have to have any coaches to really [make] that team. It was the players job to make sure all of the guys were in line, all of the guys were accountable.”
Rutgers Hall of Famer Brian Leonard sees the same parallels in his second halftime ceremony of 2016.
“Absolutely, this program is going in the right direction under coach Ash,” he said.
Rutgers honored its historic 2006 team – the team most famous for its Louisville victory – with a special moment and video package during halftime of the loss to Indiana.
For the fans that made it to their seats on time, they enjoyed a special coin toss that included 2006 team captains Foster, Leonard, Shawn Tucker and Ramel Meekins. They accompanied Rutgers 2016 captains Darius Hamilton, Julian Pinnix-Odrick, Chris Muller and Derrick Nelson.
“[Coming out for the coin toss] made me realize what we tried to do here, build here and leave a legacy,” Foster said. “These guys here are in rebuilding mode. To come back and do that, I just told them 'hey man, we're not out of it. It may not be the best year so far, but we were in that rebuilding mode as well.'”
The celebration weekend began with a team dinner and culminated in a halftime announcement and video package.
“I haven't seen some of these guys in 10 years, and to be back with these guys and have Eric do that chant – the same chant that he did in the locker room after we beat South Florida,” Leonard said. “It's just an amazing feeling to be out there with these guys again and remember what we did here. We built something here that's going to last a long time. They're having a little of a down season this year, but these guys are going to come back. We're going to be good again.”
In a mirror image of his own senior day, the ceremony ended with Leonard, sword in hand.
“It felt cool,” Leonard said. “It felt like I was right back on the podium after the Syracuse game. It's been awesome.”