Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mason Foster fights for a place rarely held by Tampa Bay Bucs rookies

TAMPA — Mason Foster didn't care if the red and white gloves with the NFL shield clashed with the black and silver colors of his Seaside Raiders youth football league team.

"We all still wore it," Foster said.

The uniform accessories were distributed at a football camp each year by Herm Edwards, a resident of the ocean view community on Monterrey Bay. Foster attended the camp held by the former Bucs assistant every year until after his junior season of high school.

He heard stories about all the Tampa Bay players, met a few of them and idolized one. So when Foster walked into the office of Bucs general manager Mark Dominik last week to sign his rookie contract, he took a deep breath and made a startling request.

"I know it's a long shot," Foster said. "But is there any way I can talk to Derrick Brooks about wearing 55 because he's my favorite player of all time."

Dominik didn't hesitate.

"I said, 'I'm not going to let you talk to him, but thanks,' " Dominik said. "I told him, 'create your own number.' Maybe one day, some young kid will sit here and ask if he can wear No. 59."

Foster, the Bucs' third-round draft pick from Washington, will get his chance to build his own legacy starting this season.

At 6 feet 1, 241 pounds, he is a different body type than the Bucs have had at middle linebacker. His fire burns white hot whenever he steps onto the field.

The Bucs' decision to pass on free agent Barrett Ruud, their leading tackler the past four seasons who signed with the Titans, opened the door for another young player to direct the defense for Raheem Morris.

The first meeting came at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., in January during an interview with Morris and Dominik.

"There was an obvious presence when he walked into the room and just the makeup of the guy really showed up for us in the way he commanded the interview, the way he handled it, his personality," Dominik said. "I can remember Coach Morris saying, 'I'd like to have that guy in my huddle.' "

Foster is competing with second-year linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, the former USF star activated after being released by the Patriots. The job likely will belong to Foster by the start of the regular season.

The last rookie to start at middle linebacker for the Bucs was Jamie Duncan, a third-round pick from Vanderbilt. Both players were taken 84th overall and wore No. 59.

Duncan started the final six games in 1998 when Hardy Nickerson was diagnosed with inflammation of the sac around the heart caused by an infection. Nickerson returned the next season then Duncan took over in 2000-01, with modest results.

Dominik is not concerned with playing another rookie at a pivotal position.

"From Day 1 on my press conference, I told everyone I had a lot of confidence that this kid is going to be a really productive player for us and be a fan favorite, because he does bring energy," Dominik said.

Foster's football acumen was instilled by his father, William, a former San Jose State football player who coached Mason in youth football and baseball. In '96, he saved enough money to take the family to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, where Mason met another idol, Chargers linebacker Junior Seau.

In the Monterrey Peninsula, where golf is the dominant sport, football players can get lost. Foster attracted only one offer from a Pac-10 program — Washington. He was a starter by the end of his freshman season and wound up playing all three linebacker positions. As a senior, Foster recorded 163 tackles, the most by any Huskies player in 20 years. His 12.58 tackles per game ranked second in Division I-A.

"When I came in, I felt like I was better than a lot of people," Foster said. "That's just the way I was raised. My dad told me you should always think that, even if you're not the best, you should compete like you're the best."

And maybe one day, Foster's jersey will be in demand.

"We were very confident that he wouldn't have a hard time immersing himself into this because he loves football so much," Dominik said. "He loves it and he loves the Bucs."

Mason Foster fights for a place rarely held by Tampa Bay Bucs rookies 08/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 6:41am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Celtics were only team in position to deal for Kyrie Irving


    The Cavaliers found themselves in a seemingly impossible situation when it came to trading Kyrie Irving. Not only did Cleveland need to try to extract the kind of price a team looks to get to trade its star — some combination of cap relief, young players and draft picks — it also needed to acquire talent to …

    Kyrie Irving, left, is guarded by Stephen Curry during the NBA Finals last season. [Associated Press]
  2. Browns, who visit Bucs this week, take a courageous step toward social change


    CLEVELAND — The laughingstock of the league during a 1-15 season in 2016, the Browns took a dramatic step forward Monday night.

    Browns players kneel as others stand to support their circle during the national anthem before Monday night's preseason game against the Giants. [Associated Press]
  3. Can Bucs become Tampa Bay's favorite team again?


    Their playoff run came up a tiebreaker short.

    Bucs fullback, Mike Alstott talks to the crowd as he walked along Kennedy Blvd. in downtown Tampa during the Buccaneer victory parade Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2003.Times Photo by: Fraser Hale
  4. Jones: Koetter-Winston exchange highlights latest 'Hard Knocks'


    There are certain things that make HBO's Hard Knocks must-see television.

    Jameis Winston, left, has an exchange with Dirk Koetter that highlights Hard Knocks.
  5. Trevor Plouffe is DFA'd by Rays, Kittredge recalled for now


    INF Trevor Plouffe didn't do much with the opportunity the Rays gave him, and time ran out Tuesday when he was designated for assignment after the game.

    Plouffe hit just .178, with one homer and two RBIs, in 31 games for the Rays, his primary playing time from starting at first or third against lefties.