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Rams' Foster a late starter but quick learner
One can only wonder what Evan Foster’s progression would have been had he played football his entire life.
Foster first strapped on the pads and stepped onto the gridiron just four years ago.
Prior to that, Foster mainly played hockey and lacrosse, as a stay-at-home defenceman in the former and a creaseman in the latter.
But since taking up football, Foster has morphed into something special, and last week (Oct. 17), the 22-year-old was named the B.C. Football Conference defensive player of the year.
He was also named the top defensive lineman and an all-star, one of five team awards and eight all-stars for the team.
The fact Foster has received all these accolades comes a little surprise considering the dominant season he has delivered in his final season of junior eligibility.
Foster set a new Canadian Junior Football League record with 16 quarterback sacks, breaking the previous mark of 15. The BCFC record had been 12.5. He also had one sack apiece in both his team’s semifinal victory over the Okanagan Sun on Oct. 13 and then another in Saturday’s 48-37 loss in the Cullen Cup championship game versus the V.I. Raiders.
“To be honest, I didn’t know how successful I would be so this is kind of a nice surprise,” Foster admitted about his accomplishments.
For his part, Foster downplayed the award and the record.
“It doesn’t mean too much,” he said. “It is a lot of good team effort, good coaching, just being put in the right spot to make plays.
“You just have to capitalize when your chances are there.”
His head coach with the Rams — who also doubles as his positional coach along the defensive line — gets a little more excited when discussing Foster and his accomplishments.
“I don’t even know if you could say I am coaching him,” said Ted Kirby with a laugh.
“Hopefully something I have said has influenced him, but he is just so talented.
“(And) to be an interior defensive lineman and break a sack record that was set by defensive ends — where they only have to beat one guy and are more of speed guys — to that, is amazing.”
“He just has a characteristic where he doesn’t want to be blocked and it is far near impossible to block him one-on-one and he has faced double and triple teams all year,” Kirby added.
Foster started football after graduating from Chilliwack Secondary in 2009.
Up until that point, he had focused on hockey and lacrosse, playing both at the rep level.
But he decided along with a few friends to give the gridiron game a try. He played one season of midget football for the Chilliwack Giants community football program and Foster picked up the game quite quickly.
“It came pretty natural to me,” he admitted. “And I have always been pretty athletic for my size, pretty quick.”
“I have a pretty good motor and am fast off the line (of scrimmage). And I can be pretty physical when needed.”
Foster joined the Nanaimo-based V.I. Raiders junior football program and played two seasons before returning to the Lower Mainland with the Rams last season. This allowed him to move back to Chilliwack and play for Langley.
His first season in Rams colours saw him produce 9.5 sacks.
“I thought last year was pretty good to be honest,” he admitted.
“(But) this year, I really put my foot on the gas pedal because I really wanted to make a name in this league before my last year was up.”
Foster credited his teammates around him for opening up space for him but did say he noticed more double and triple teams as the season progressed.
But whatever teams were doing, couldn’t slow him down as he set the Canadian sack record in the 10th and final regular season game last month, which just happened to be in his hometown, Chilliwack.
Saturday’s loss to the Raiders ended Foster’s junior career, but he hopes to keep playing football.
“To play in the CFL would be the ultimate goal,” he said.
“I just have to understand the game a little bit more and maybe put some weight on and get a little bit faster.”
Foster is six-feet and 270 pounds.
Foster attended a B.C. Lions evaluation camp last year and could potentially get an invitation again this year, Kirby said, adding that several Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) schools are also interested in Foster.
“His football days are not done just because junior football is done,” Kirby said.
What makes Foster stand out is his work ethic.
“His character is only matched by his determination,” Kirby said.
“He is the hardest working kid, so unselfish, a team-first guy.
“Obviously once you get (records) they are nice, but he doesn’t care about records.”
Kirby also described him as a quiet leader who uses his humour to keep the team loose.
“But if he does talk, people will listen,” the coach said, adding that there will be a void left by his departure.
“You don’t just replace an Evan Foster — he is a special kid and that is why he broke those records that have been around for a while.
“He will leave a massive hole.”