EDITOR’S NOTE: This continues a regular feature on DawgNation called “Throwback Thursday.” It offers a chance to revisit the recruiting stories of former UGA greats. The last few installments have been on tackling machine Tony Gilbert, 1984 defensive team captain Donald Chumley, undersized linebacker Rennie Curran, Vince Dooley era tight end Kirk Warner and fan favorite Randy McMichael. This week’s feature catches up with the last UGA offensive lineman to go in the first round of the NFL Draft.
George Foster’s football bucket list will have a lot of checks. The former UGA offensive tackle was a first-round NFL Draft pick in 2003. That was the last time a UGA offensive lineman was selected in the opening round.
He was part of Mark Richt’s drought-breaking SEC Championship team in 2002. Foster logged nine seasons in the NFL. The Macon native played in an AFC Championship Game when he was with the Denver Broncos. He’s now in his third season as a bonafide NFL scout for the St. Louis Rams.
Yet one feat will go without a check. It is definitely on his mind this week. Foster, who played at UGA from 1998-2002, never beat Florida.
“I hated the Gators with a passion,” Foster said. “This is Florida week and I’m sending (text) messages to all my dudes who went to Florida that I played with and played against right now. I still can’t stand the Gators right now.”
The rivalry still stirs within him.
“I tried to dominate anybody I was going against, but there was something else about Florida,” Foster said. “Back them we had not beaten Florida ever or in a long time. When I played we hadn’t beaten them since 1997 and it just built up. And then that’s just natural when you sign on with the Red and Black. You hate all things orange.”
Foster feels every UGA coach and player is measured by the Florida game.
“Those bragging rights are always nice to have every year Georgia beats Florida,” Foster said. “I work with a Gator now and I’ve already started on him. My pro personnel director is Ran Carthon. He played at Florida. I’ve already sent out a couple of text messages of a grilled gator picture.”
Why did he choose UGA? Foster said Auburn all-time great Takeo Spikes was his cousin. War Eagle was his likely second choice.
“I don’t want to sound like the old guy here, but things were done differently back then,” he said. “You hear guys getting told they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. I don’t know how to put that together, but they can name the best seventh-grader in the nation now. I was simple. When I knew I wanted to go to Georgia, I committed. When I committed, that was it. I canceled all my other official visits.”
Foster was being recruited by Tennessee, too. Rodney Garner was initially recruiting him to the Volunteers and Foster felt he “seamlessly” transitioned to recruiting him when he came over to the UGA staff.
Those SEC schools were after a prospect who had a unique senior season at Southeast High School in Macon.
“I took two jerseys to the game because I played tight end and offensive tackle,” Foster said. “That was No. 73 and No. 89 so it was situational. I guess whatever my coach thought would be better for me to play at the time. That was the jersey I would wear.”
He was 6 feet, 6 inches tall when he arrived at UGA in 1998. His legacy is defined by an ideal that is 100 percent cliche, but he lived it.
“I just played sports for the love of sports,” Foster said. “I enjoy football and winning feels great. I don’t do competitive things for fun. The outcome is always to play ball, play hard and win games.”
Foster was involved in a car accident prior to his senior season in 2002 and dislocated his wrist. They tried putting him in traction, but that didn’t work. So he had to have surgery.
“The doctor said that I was probably not going to be able to play,” Foster said. “I don’t know if I said it out loud but in my mind I said ‘Oh, no there’s no way. I will play. I will play whatever I have to do’ and that’s how it went.”
The only way he had to play was to “club” up his hand. He wore six different clubs during the week. He arrived early for practice for his club fitting for practice. That contraption fitted his hand into a fist.
That was the only way he could play his senior season at UGA. So he did just that.
“I told the doctor after they put the pins in and then took them out there had to be some way I had to play,” Foster said. “That club was the only way I could play my senior season.”
It was an adjustment. He only had one hand so he blocked defensive ends and linebackers the way he was supposed to. That’s with quick feet and by staying in front of defenders.
“I never got accused of holding,” Foster said. “But I definitely got accused of pounding on guys or hitting guys with the club. I may or may not have done that.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.