Foster running to potential

True freshman tailback is learning the ropes on the scout team and looking forward to the future

Dion Foster is waiting to hear five fantastic words from University of Wisconsin running backs coach Brian White:

"‘Hey Dion! Go on in.'"

Foster, a true freshman tailback from Robbins, Ill., is redshirting this season and practicing on the Badgers' scout team. With several veterans ahead of him on the depth chart, Foster expected to be in this position: helping the defense prepare for Saturdays, while he adapts to playing at the college level.

"Life has been great," Foster said "I've been imitating a lot of different running backs that's great running backs."

Like most Division I scholarship athletes, Foster was a star in high school. But few could match his level of productivity. Foster ran for school records 5,477 yards and 75 touchdowns in his career at Oak Lawn Richards.

At Wisconsin, though, Foster is just another freshman. He spent fall camp competing for reps with his classmates, while juniors Brian Calhoun, Booker Stanley and Dywon Rowan and sophomore Jamil Walker filled in the depth chart.

"It's hard and college is all about competition and you just got to try to beat out another back and get that playing time," Foster said. "I knew me coming in as a freshman with four upperclassmen and they already been here for a year or three years. So I came in knowing I was going to redshirt and just get bigger and better. Then try to beat them out next year. That's all."

Foster has added 13 pounds to his 5-foot-9 frame and now checks in at 208. He said the weight has not affected his speed.

"Dion's really matured… from camp to where he's at right now," said White, who doubles as a co-offensive coordinator. "And (I am) getting a lot of very positive reports from his work on the scout squad."

Like many true freshman, Foster said that the speed of the game was the most difficult thing to adjust to at the college level. Foster also had some struggles adjusting to the rigors of a college football player's schedule, balancing class work and practices.

"Like the first few weeks here it was kind of hard for me adjusting to the way my class schedule was," he said. "I got used to it finally and now it's just like cake."

It helped that Foster already knew two players on the Badger football team, who could help him acclimate to life on and off the field. Redshirt freshman tight end Sean Lewis spent the 2003 and '02 football seasons handing off to Foster as Richards' quarterback.

"Me and Sean, we were real close in high school," Foster said. "And then when I came up here we got even real closer… When I need to have problems up here, I could just call Sean and he'll come talk to me."

Sophomore wide receiver Marcus Randle El lived five minutes from Foster in Harvey, Ill.

"We knew of each other and my family knew his family," Foster said.

A shoulder injury in training camp stalled Foster's progress, keeping out of practice for about a week.

"It hurt (my development) a little bit because I had to catch up on a lot of stuff that I had to learn and I just hate sitting out," Foster said. "I didn't like it at all. I wanted to go back so quick. But it was all the trainers, they wouldn't let me."

Foster has since gotten into the swing of things and said that "life has been great" on the scout team impersonating opponent's ball carriers.

"It's been great trying to imitate them and do what they do on the field so our defense can get the look of what they are going to get in an actual game," Foster said.

His favorite impersonation?

Minnesota's Laurence Maroney.

"I had to watch film on him to get everything he did down pegged," Foster said. "I just had to do what he had to do so our defense could get what they (were) looking for out of him."

Foster performed that role well enough last week to earn his second scout offensive player of week award Monday.

The honor, Foster said, tells him that "I think I did a (heck) of a job and our coaches thought that I did a (heck) of a job at… imitating another running back from a different college."

Next season the same veterans will grace the Badgers' tailback depth. But Foster is already looking forward to earning playing time.

"I'm hoping," Foster said. "I'm waiting for that day to come."

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