By Rob Landry | LSU Student
Larry Foster has felt the highest of highs, the lowest of lows and everything in between.
The former LSU and NFL wide receiver was on the field when LSU upset then No. 1 Florida in 1997, 28-21, in arguably the greatest game in Tiger Stadium history.
Foster also spent nights sleeping in the Baton Rouge General Emergency Room a few years ago because he had no other place to sleep and refused to ask others for help.
Now he is taking life experiences and turning them into a learning experience for others through a mentoring program for high school senior boys in the Baton Rouge area. The program, tentatively named, 'Born Winners,' will provide mentoring events.
Foster plans to have the organization up and running by January.
His first project is an eight-session mentoring program. Each student would be provided with a motivational book to go along with the sessions.
Following the eight sessions, Foster expects the mentor and student to stay in touch for a four-to-five-year period, much like he had at LSU.
"[The LSU football] program was put together for someone for four or five years," Foster said. "Exactly what they were doing for me, putting me together, and looking out for me even after I left. I want something like that to be available to both people who do and do not have athletic talents."
Foster wants to help the boys find some direction in their lives before graduating high school, something he never had outside of football.
"The kids I want to reach are at a critical age. They need to figure out what they want to do. Luckily I had football to fall back on. If I hadn't had football I don't know what interests I would have followed."
Foster, a Harvey, La., native, burst on the scene as a freshman at LSU, catching 26 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns in 1996. His career best came in 1998 when he reeled in 56 receptions for 722 yards and four touchdowns.
He was named a captain for the 1999 season, but fell into legal problems when he was arrested on purse snatching charges. The incident eventually led to him leaving the team after being suspended early in the season.
The NFL came calling in the spring of 2000. Foster was signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent and played three seasons in Detroit where he caught 53 passes for 610 yards and a touchdown.
Before the 2003 season, Foster was traded to the Arizona Cardinals for a seventh round draft pick. In his first game for the Cardinals – ironically enough against the Lions – Foster caught one pass for seven yards.
It would be his final NFL reception.
On that play, Foster fractured an ankle, which took multiple weeks to heal. By midseason, the Cardinals had lost kicker Bill Gramatica to an injury and were forced to sign another kicker to fill in. Foster was released to open up the roster spot.
After that he made multiple attempts to resurrect his career and even signed with Carolina Panthers. The Panthers asked him to go play in NFL Europe for the summer.
Foster agreed, but as he was set to leave for Europe he was informed he had failed his physical due to a calcified finger that resulted from a dislocation he had sustained while at LSU. He was not allowed to make the trip to Europe.
Foster lived in New Orleans until 2005 when he lost everything to Hurricane Katrina. He bounced around, living in Texas and Alabama before coming back to Baton Rouge in 2006.
After a failed attempt to reenroll at LSU, Foster fell on some hard times.
"I've been homeless," Foster said. "I was just so pumped up with pride that I didn't want people to know I was down."
But six months ago, Foster found a job working as a certified forklift driver for CAP Technologies, a plasma cleaning company, and he caught the eye of company President Eddie Daigle.
"The only way you can describe him, he's just a super guy," Daigle said. "He's very polite, a very hard worker and a really nice guy."
Foster is now set to re-enroll at LSU in January. He needs 28 hours to finish his general studies degree, something he says could have finished earlier if he had had some direction.
"When I thought about the time I wasted between my freshman and sophomore year, it was a bout 60 hours worth of school that didn't go toward what I wanted to do, which was graphic design," said Foster.
Daigle said CAP Technologies would help Foster's mentoring endeavor in any way it can.
"Individually, the employees certainly can help out," Daigle said. "If things like that can help Larry get started, that would be my goal. And then that would help the kids, in turn."
Though his playing days ended abruptly, Foster still has fond memories of donning the purple and gold.
"My time at LSU was phenomenal. Running onto that stadium, playing on those grounds, everything just brings tears to my eyes. It's a real humbling experience, it makes you want to puff your chest out. It taught me some great life lessons and it was a pleasure to have been a part of."
Now Foster wants that feeling to come from a different venue. He wants it to come from knowing he helped give a lost child some direction in life.
"It's not about me any more. If you clap me up or tear me down, it doesn't do anything for me anymore. What does do something for me is seeing these young people have an honest, fair chance at life."