Beyond the Boxscore

Arian Foster finds unusual playoff motivation: Email promise drives the Texans playoff lifeline

Arian Foster finds unusual playoff motivation: Email promise drives the Texans playoff lifeline

News_38_Texans_Bengals_January 2012
Arian Foster went into stands after he scored against the Bengals in the playoffs last January. Photo by © Michelle Watson/
Andre Johnson high catch Texans
Arian Foster is motivated by making sure that Andre Johnson gets his chance to leap high in the biggest games. Photo by © Michelle Watson/
News_38_Texans_Bengals_January 2012
Andre Johnson high catch Texans

Arian Foster sent the email to the all-time greatest Houston Texan back when 6-10 seasons brought real heartache to Reliant Stadium, long before anyone could have imagined 12-4 would deliver disappointment.

He told Andre Johnson then that he'd do everything in his power to help the perennial all-pro get playoff moments like the one they'll both enjoy on Saturday.

"This is mighty brave of me to say, but I remember emailing (Andre) and I said, ‘I’m going to help you get to the stage where you can shine,’ " Foster says. "I told him that when I was a rookie. And last year I told him, ‘We got here.’

"And he did it, he shined on that stage. We didn’t get to go to the big dance, but we were in the dance. It was one of my goals as a player, as an NFL player, it’s written down, to help Andre Johnson get into the playoffs and maybe one day get into the Super Bowl."

 "I don’t really watch TV that much. I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. They don’t have any opinions on the Texans." 

When everyone tries to analyze why Arian Foster is so good in the playoffs, they might want to start with that email. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt's obsession with writing down all his goals, and every seemingly crazy thing he wants to accomplish, is well known around the Texans.

But it turns out the more free flowing, philosopher running back jolts goals down too. And he's doing pretty well at keeping the helping Andre one.

Foster has rushed for more yards (285) than any back in history in his first two playoff games and has the chance to be the first running back to run for more than 100 yards in his first three career playoff games when the Texans face the Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) Saturday afternoon.

Knowing that if he doesn't, there is a good chance Andre Johnson will be going home early again.

"I think that’s the core of what we do, is running the ball," Foster says. "And I think when we’re effective running the ball, it opens up our offense. It keeps our defense off of the field."

Reading Arian Foster

Foster may be the most fascinating professional athlete in America. Every time he talks to the press is a virtual must listen. He largely refuses to answer trite, standard fare questions, volleying them back rather than delivering the same meaningless sound bites that athletes have been giving for generations.

And he does it in such a deadpan manner that you sometimes wonder if the questioner even gets it.

Take Foster on the Texans "alarming" lack of momentum going into the playoffs . . .

Not that Foster is reading some American best seller. He's into The Sharman & Ayahuasca by Peru author Don Jose Carlos.

"I don’t really watch TV that much," he says. "I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. They don’t have any opinions on the Texans."

Not that Foster is reading some American best seller. He's into The Shaman & Ayahuasca by Peru author Don Jose Carlos.

"It’s about a plant in, I think it’s the Amazon rain forest, that when you ingest it, it’s supposed to take you to a spiritual experience similar to DMT," Foster says of the hallucinogenic. "I don’t know if you want to get that deep, but that’s what I was reading.” 

Geno Atkins and the Bengals stifling front seven can hardly expect a tranquil Foster. For No. 23 is just as much of a student of football, one who understands what playoff time requires more than most.

"I think everyone's intensity rises in the playoffs," Texans tight end Owen Daniels says. "But with guys like Arian and Andre, you notice it more because they're so talented.

"When they take it to another level, it's a level most guys don't even have."

Foster and Johnson carried the Texans' offense in the playoffs last January with T.J. Yates under center. If you don't think they can do the same with Matt Schaub at quarterback — despite all the frantic focus centering on the signal caller — you haven't been paying attention.

"You’re not out there thinking, 'OK, this is the playoffs, I have to make a play.' But you kind of get a sense when your team needs you," Foster says. "I’ve been preparing my entire life for these moments to play in the National Football League."

He has a promise to keep after all — a rookie's brash emailed vow that has not faded with time. If anything, Foster feels the urgency even more.

"I’ve learned a lot from (Andre) and he’s inspired me to be a better football player, to be a better human being," Foster says. "It’s one of my goals to make sure he gets that (Super Bowl) opportunity."

Every playoff burst from Foster brings Johnson closer, threatening to make an email almost book worthy.