Cracking the whip

A Tennessee Vol better known for cracking jokes found himself cracking the whip last winter.

When an alarming number of teammates were showing up on the Knoxville police blotter in January, fun-loving senior tailback Arian Foster decided to take matters into his own hands.

"I was sitting at home and I got a text from Coach Fulmer saying some guys had been arrested," Foster recalls. "I sat there for a while, and I felt like I had to do something – not just individually but as a senior class because this is OUR team.

"It's the younger guys' team, as well, but it's our last go-around, so I wanted to make sure all of us understood that. They agreed, so I orchestrated a senior meeting, letting everybody know that this can't go on."

Since the best way to keep players out of trouble in the wee hours of the morning is to keep them in their dorm rooms in the wee hours of the morning, Foster suggested an 11 p.m. curfew. The other seniors agreed that the drastic measure was needed to restore some order.

"Whether we like the rules or not, we're going to implement rules we have to follow also," Foster says. "We did that, and I spoke with some of the underclassmen who also have leadership roles. I pulled Eric Berry aside, Vladimir Richard, Montario Hardesty and a lot of the guys – and just said, 'We can't have this any more.'"

Although Foster is the unofficial team comedian, teammates recognized that he was deadly serious regarding the breakdown of discipline.

"Naturally, you had guys going 'Ohhhhh (groaning), we don't want to come in at 11 o'clock,'" he recalls, "but we needed it because things weren't going right."

Foster's decisive action may have saved the season. It certainly saved the offseason. No Vols have been involved in police-related incidents since the curfew was imposed.

"We all responded positively," he says.

As one of the team's most popular players, Foster had to step way out of character to play the role of deputy sheriff. It was a move he felt compelled to make, however.

"I just felt like we needed to open our eyes and understand that if this is going to happen, we have to MAKE it happen," he says. "It starts off the field. You don't want to be viewed in a negative light."

Or, in this case, a flashing police-cruiser light.

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