When it comes to firsts, we typically have a vivid memory of that time/place/person.
The first time you drove a vehicle.
The first date.
The first child.
I could go on, but when it comes to firsts, it also extends to sports. Not just your own personal prowess, but also your fandom. The first player you were a huge fan of, for whatever reason.
Being born in 1983, at the point when I could start to pay attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers I was enthralled with a player who got the ball a ton. Some might suggest the Steelers rode the wheels off him long before Mike Tomlin said that about “Fast” Willie Parker.
The player I’m talking about, in case you didn’t know who was in the above image, was none other than running back Barry Foster.
As a kid, I loved watching Foster carry the football, probably because he got the ball a TON during his prime in Pittsburgh. Drafted in 1990, Foster saw the field in a part-time role in ‘90 and ‘91. It was the 1992 season when Foster became a force to be reckoned with. Foster’s 390 attempts which totaled 1,690 yards and 11 touchdowns earned him a Pro Bowl bid, 1st Team All-Pro, and 2nd place votes for MVP and Offensive Player of the Year.
Injuries hindered Foster’s 1993 and 1994 seasons and overall production, In 1995, Foster had become viewed as expendable due to his contract, the rise of Bam Morris and the signing of former 1,000-yard running back Erric Pegram. Pittsburgh traded Foster to the expansion Carolina Panthers but he was cut in training camp when he failed a physical, after which he retired.
In Cowher’s book he spoke about how he felt he failed Foster, who he claimed had a poor work ethic and the two butted heads regularly. It seemed as meteoric Foster’s rise was for the Steelers, his star flamed out.
The end of Foster’s career was odd, to say the last. This from his Wikipedia page:
Later that season, Foster came out of retirement to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals after the injury to their first round draft pick Ki-Jana Carter in the preseason. But two days after signing a $1 million contract, Foster changed his mind and left the Bengals. Foster, age 26, out of football since the Carolina Panthers released him before the 1995 season began, complained that he felt like “a 60-year-old running back” after his first workout in pads with the team. He later returned his reported $300,000 signing bonus to the Bengals, left town, and retired again a few days later without playing a game. He announced that he had saved his money and had enough to retire.
Regardless of how Foster’s career ended, or what he’s doing now, he will always be that first player I loved watching wear the black-and-gold when I started to truly love the team. I wore No. 29 on my 7th grade football team because of Foster, and I wasn’t even a running back.
We all have our firsts when it comes to the Steelers, who was your first favorite player? Let us know in the comment section below!
(Note: The Letter From the Editor column runs Sundays during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)