Joe Medley: Once punch line, Foster’s story call for perspective on recruiting
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Feb 12, 2013 | 5777 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Reuben Foster, thanks for the perspective.

And sorry for what you went through. Who’s with me and wants to start a perspective movement? C’mon, let’s make it the cool-kids thing to do.

It should be the cool-kids thing to do, after months spent hanging on Foster’s commitment switches, address changes, weekend locale changes, televised commitment and tattoos, then ridiculing him for assumed attention hawking.

I’ll raise my hand and take my grief. On the Sunday before National Signing Day, a day after he cut short his official visit to Auburn and wound up in Tuscaloosa, I wrote the following about Foster’s “switcheroo melodramas.”

“Oh, the questions likely to follow his announcement tonight,” I wrote. “Is it really over Reuben? Are you sure the school you just announced will be the school to receive your letter-of-intent Wednesday? Any new tattoos?”

Then, just two days after he wore the Nick Saban practice uniform and signed with Alabama, the school with which he originally committed, we learned the r-r-rest of the story. He took a bullet as a baby, after it was fired by his father and passed through his mother.

We learned that because his father, Danny Foster, reportedly was arrested in Miami last week after 16 years on the lam.

Attention hawking?

If such motivation played any small role in Reuben Foster’s recruiting soap opera, then hey, break out the tissue and thunder a dramatic organ key. Here’s hoping Reuben enjoyed the ride.

Really. God bless him for it, and God bless all who learned a lesson about hanging on the whims of 17- and-18-year-old football players. They’re not just 17- and-18-year-old football players. Some have lived documentary-worthy young lives.

If they want to have a little fun in recruiting, get a tattoo to illustrate their momentary school choice, or even toy with one fan base’s favorite school, then it’s no conspiracy. He’s not a thug, or whatever dog-whistle word that passes through our lips these days.

More likely than not, he’s a kid torn by a wrenching decision between high-profile colleges. He’s trying not to displease glad-handing fans, fellow recruits and coaches, all of whom might stoop to begging him for his signature on a National Letter of Intent.

Maybe he’s shaken by volatility in the coaching profession, like Reuben Foster was when Auburn fired former head coach Gene Chizik and staff, including key recruiter Trooper Taylor. Reuben Foster had built a relationship with Taylor.

As the coaching carousel turns, a young recruit is hearing his cellphone message chimes and vibration buzzes in his sleep.

He’s trying to keep pace with social-media messages.

He’s constantly smiling and answering sports media holding cellphone cameras set for video — recruiting’s version of paparazzi.

Chances are, he’s finding the attention overwhelming, and he might just regain some measure of control by having fun with it.

Or maybe he just doesn’t want to tell people things they don’t want to hear.

Or, depending on his life, he might also find escape in it, so don’t hate him if he rides the wave. Don’t assume stereotype and motive.

As thorough and constant as recruiting media must be to satisfy their base, they just might miss the story of a young man’s life in the lead-up to signing day. Reuben Foster’s story came to light in a weekly paper, just down the road a piece.

Not sure if the Randolph Leader has as many online subscribers as one’s favorite Rivals, Scout or 247sports site, but the same paper had the sad duty of covering hometown legend Ladarious Phillips’ senseless murder last June.

The Leader also brought us the sad tale of an infant Reuben Foster. How young is too young to learn that even the security of his mother’s arms is no match for a gun?

Perhaps by the grace of God, all three people hit by that bullet in Roanoke in November of 1995 survived, but not because Danny Foster didn’t try. The Leader reported that he sawed through a bar, escaped from the Randolph County Jail and came back, looking for Reuben Foster’s mother.

Correction, that’s “five-star linebacker” Reuben Foster’s mother to us.

Well, here’s hoping that “five-star linebacker Reuben Foster” had some five-star fun through all the stress of recruiting. Here’s hoping that his final answer winds up being the right one for him, and his dad has lots of time to ponder a life that could have been with such a talented son.

Here’s also hoping that the latest and most-gut-punching twist in Reuben Foster’s story finally ups the ante enough to start a perspective movement about recruiting. We can dream, can’t we?

He’s young, might be overwhelmed and just might have been through a lot in his life. Let’s give the obsession a rest and the kids a break.

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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