Robert Foster has been around the Alabama program for 5 years now, and for the last four of them, he’s always been that receiver that I just knew was about to have his breakout season. As did every other blogger for Alabama football.
The #2 overall receiver in the 2013 recruiting class, Foster was a 6’2” speedster with both high-pointing and run-after-catch ability who wore number 8 on his jersey— leaving many to speculate on him becoming the next Julio Jones. He redshirted his first year to add some weight to a small frame and work on expanding his route tree.
Immediately, rumors started surfacing around the internet that Foster was contemplating transferring back to his home state to play for Pitt, the college he chose Bama over. Despite that, though, he kept hanging around. In the 2014 A-day game, Cooper Bateman unleashed the best pass of his Alabama career to Foster on a deep corner down the right sideline:
As a redshirt freshman, he got some time in mop-up duty and got 9 catches, but was behind veteran stars like Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White. When 2015 rolled around, Foster had effectively waited out the veterans ahead of him and was now on top of the depth chart with ArDarius Stewart. In the season opener against Wisconsin, Foster was Jake Coker’s most trusted target, and looked all the world like he’d be the #1 receiver the rest of the season.
He was the team leader with 10 catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the first 2 games of the season, but it all ended when he went up for a deep ball against Ole Miss. The defender landed on him as he went to the ground, and he shattered his collarbone, ending his season on the spot. Freshman upstart Calvin Ridley took over after that, and never looked back.
He recovered enough to run the fastest 40-time on the team (4.34s) that spring, but couldn’t unseat the duo of Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart the next year. He played a little in most every game, but still had under 10 catches on the year.
Afterwards, the transfer rumors started popping up again, and he even made a few cryptic comments of his own about being unsure of the future. Ultimately though, he stuck it out and finally became a starter against in 2017 for his redshirt senior season.
In June, Foster posted a Morgan Freeman quote on Facebook, "The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit."
"I swear this quote drives me everyday with pics of my (son) on my phone," Foster added.
Then, on Sunday, Foster published his most recent Facebook post. "To all the people worried about (their) situation," it read, "know your blessings are (about) to come soon."
"I've learned that things aren't (always) going to happen when you want it to happen," Foster said Saturday. "It's a humbling experience for me. Just when the time comes, take advantage of it."
Despite being a full time starter, Foster saw few targets through most of the season as quarterback Jalen Hurts usually preferred throwing to Calvin Ridley more than anyone else. In the game against Colorado state, Foster made the highlight of his career with a 52-yard catch and run which displayed his blazing and unique speed as he shot through the heart of the defense with all the grace of a hunting cheetah.
A few games later, Foster had a series of plays that soured most every Alabama fan. With 7 minutes left in the 3rd quarter of the Texas A&M game, he slipped past the Aggie coverage and Jalen Hurts uncorked a deep bomb to him. Foster lost it in the sun or something, and totally missed the ball despite no defender being within 20 yards of him. A couple of plays later, he dropped a curl route that would have put the Alabama offense in 3rd and 1 despite the ball hitting him in the chest. On the ensuing third down play, he took a screen pass and fumbled the ball on first contact, leading to Alabama’s first turnover of the year.
He ended the season with 11 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown, plus a 12-yard jet sweep against Auburn.
Foster never quite lived up to what everyone expected he would. He’s one of the fastest players in the college game, but a combination of veteran stars on his team, terrible injury luck, and a QB who clearly favored throwing to only one receiver, and inconsistent play led to him never quite becoming the contributor we all had hoped.
There’s little chance he gets drafted, but an NFL team might decide to give him a shot based on his high school potential, 40-time, 5 years of training at the best program in college football, and unquestionable work ethic and perseverance in adverse situations.
I know I’ll be rooting for him to have his breakout moment the whole way.
Roll Tide, Robert. And thank you for being an integral part of the best team in all of college football over the last 5 years.