UW's Foster A Force On Defense

by Maiah Hollander

University of Washington linebacker Mason Foster has come a long way from tackling tables as a kid in his Seaside, Calif., home.

"My older cousins and dad always had a football around," said Foster. "I was always running around with my helmet on running into stuff."

Now, as a senior at UW, Foster is recognized as one of the most productive linebackers in the country. He ranks second in the nation with 136 tackles, including 10 or more stops in 10 of 11 games this season. His 12.5 tackles per game lead the Pac-10 and will be on display when the Huskies hit the road to face long-time rival Washington State in the Apple Cup on Saturday.

With a bowl berth on the line after three years of struggles, this could be the most significant game of Foster's career. Aside from the big game atmosphere you get with a traditional rivalry game, Washington has extra motivation after not going to a bowl game since 2002. For the seniors, this is their last chance to make their mark on UW history.

"It's been a goal since the beginning of the season," said senior quarterback Jake Locker. "But records don't really matter in games like this. With the fans and that kind of atmosphere, anything can happen."

Washington can certainly count on Foster to make things happen. Foster has been a reliable tackling machine throughout his career, and is poised to become just the 11th player in the last 47 years to lead the Huskies in tackles for a season twice during his career.

Foster came to Seattle as an unheralded recruit from Seaside High School. As a child, he played several sports, including basketball and roller hockey, until he became old enough to play football.

"I wanted to play something where I could hit people legally," Foster said.

After waiting for years, Foster was finally old enough to play football and joined the Seaside Raiders at the tender age of nine. As an admitted heavy-set, "fluffy kid," Foster started his football career at center.

Even though Foster won the lineman of the year award at nine, he was still moved around the field, even playing quarterback.

"My dream position was tight end," said Foster. "I wanted to hit people, but still get the chance to score."

Luckily for UW, Foster landed at linebacker where he has dominated the playing field. He just received first team All-America honors from Scout.com after posting the most tackles by a Husky in a single game since 1989. With 346 career tackles, six forced fumbles and four interceptions during his college career, Foster will go down as one of the best players in UW's history.

"It's a credit to [former Washington head coach] Willingham and his staff for finding Mason and getting him here," second-year UW coach Steve Sarkisian said to the Tacoma News Tribune. "He's a tremendous football player with a great work ethic. It's unfortunate that we haven't played better defense around him, because he is well-deserving of any honor he receives."

While he may not have been a five-star recruit, the success Foster has achieved is no surprise to his mother.

"He is so passionate about everything he does," Margarette Foster said. "He goes out there and gives 110 percent every time. It's exciting to watch."

For all his success on the field, Foster is very down to earth and full of compassion for others.

"My proudest moment of Mason was after he visited the cancer center at the Children's Hospital," said Margarette. "He called me saying the kids told him he was their hero. He said that they were his."

This kindness for others seems to have grown from the love and support that Foster has received from his family, which has come in many forms.

"My Auntie Christine sends me a care package once a month," said Foster. "I have a sweet tooth, and she sends me huge bags of Skittles or Starbursts, or a box of Oreos."

No time like the holidays for family and sweets, but with a possible bowl bid looming there is a sense of urgency that can be felt throughout the Husky roster, especially the seniors.

"I love my family, but I want to be with the guys over the holidays," said Foster. "I want to be with my brothers here in a bowl game before I leave. I just want to win. I would trade my tackles in for wins any day. Even if all I do is block a field goal, that is enough for me."

With such a bright and colorful college career, Foster's future as a professional football player is just around the corner.

"Hopefully it all works out," said Foster. "I've really only wanted the opportunity to play."

When asked what career he would consider should the NFL not work out, Foster had a surprising answer.

"I used to watch Rescue 911 with my mom," said Foster. "Most kids want to be a policeman or a singer. I wanted to be a football player or a fireman."

Whether he ends up saving lives or crushing quarterbacks, Mason Foster has proven that he is sure to excel well beyond expectations.

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