Last night, Arian Foster announced his retirement, midway through the NFL season.
Foster, who was a running back for the Miami Dolphins this season, made his announcement through a statement via the website Uninterrupted.
Foster expressed gratitude to the game of football for all it has given him including the relationships he forged while playing. The former running back also referenced the violence of the sport and cited the punishment his body has taken for the ultimate reason of his unusually timed retirement.
Up to this point, Foster’s first-year impact on the Dolphins was minimal. Foster played in four games this season for the Dolphins, rushing 22 times for 55 yards and gaining 78 yards on six catches with no touchdowns per ESPN. Foster’s impact on the Dolphins is not how he will be remembered. However, Foster proved to be a prolific running back in seven years with the Houston Texans.
Foster’s path to NFL success required the running back to be as patient waiting for his chance, as would be waiting for a hole to open up behind his linemen. Despite totaling 3,706 yards from scrimmage and 25 touchdowns per Sports Reference while at University of Tennessee, Foster went undrafted in 2009. Many speculate that differing ideologies and arguments between Foster and college coaches led to Tennessee coaches bad-mouthing Foster during the draft process, ultimately hurting the running back’s draft stock. Opposing popular opinion and the cooperate, conformist nature of football became a theme of Foster’s career.
Eventually signing on to the practice squad for the Houston Texans in September of 2009, Foster got his chance to shine late in the season. After a wave of injuries, Foster was signed to the Texans active roster in November and he earned his first chance to play in Week 14 against the Seattle Seahawks. Foster had 88 yards on 17 touches in his first taste of action against Seattle. Foster continued his momentum into Week 16 and 17, combining for 39 carries, 216 yards and three touchdowns per ESPN.
Foster turned his late season opportunities into a starting job the following year in 2010, which proved to be Foster’s best statistical year. Foster led the NFL in rushing in 2010, with 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns per ESPN. While in Houston, Foster proved himself to be one of the most prolific running backs in the NFL, excelling both in running and catching the ball out of the backfield, becoming a true duel threat. From 2009-2015, Foster played in 76 games for the Texans while tallying 1,454 carries, 6,472 rushing yards and 54 rushing touchdowns. Foster also added 249 catches, 2,268 receiving yards and 14 receiving touchdowns while in Houston per ESPN. Injuries to his knee, chest, back, groin, calf, leg and achilles all kept Foster off the field at certain points during his career with the Texans.
Apart from his productivity on the field, Foster will be remembered for his public honesty and free-thinking. In a sport with rigid culture featuring underlying themes of god, religion, faith and patriotism, Foster challenged the NFL by announcing he did not believe in God in 2015 per ESPN, news that was confounding for fans of Foster in the bible-belt states of his former University of Tennessee Volunteers and Houston Texans. Foster continued to use his ability to make political and social comments in Miami, supporting Colin Kaepernick over Twitter and kneeling during the National Anthem. Foster even faced controversy over food, when in 2012 he stuck to a strict vegan diet, a diet that many of Foster’s, coaches and teammates disagreed with.
Foster’s playing style and beliefs alternative to traditional NFL thought are reminiscent of another ex-Dolphin, Ricky Williams, Williams also retired abruptly mid-season.
While retiring midseason is still uncommon for the NFL, new discoveries about what NFL hits can do to a player’s body and brain are making it more common for players like Foster to retire before truly exiting their physical prime.
Foster joins the likes of former NFL players like Calvin Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, Patrick Willis, and Chris Borland with his early retirement.
[Featured Image by Michael Ainsworth/ AP Images]