It's a few days till game time and Arian Foster is zooming through the Houston Texans' locker room on a Segway. He darts here and there on the carpet, backwards and forwards.
Someone asks half seriously if he ever worries about falling off.
"If I get hurt on this thing, I don't deserve to play," Foster shoots back.
The best running back in football definitely deserves to play. He's a big reason the Texans are looking more Super than ever, stampeding the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-7 on what could turn out to be an early separation Sunday in this NFL season. On a day when the fellow AFC power New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens both lose, a day when the New Orleans Saints fall to 0-2 and the defending champion New York Giants narrowly avoid the same fate in the NFC, the Texans power on.
Foster is "an aspiring human being" most of the week. But for three hours on Sunday, he'll do everything he can to rip your heart out.
Two games, two 20-point wins. Twenty weeks to the Super Bowl in New Orleans.
That's a long way to go of course — and the tenor of any NFL season can change in the snap of an injury, as the Texans well know — but Foster gives Houston the chance to be extra special.
This Texans team is powered by a Bulls On Parade defense that's now given up 10 total points in two games, but No. 23 gives the offense a confident, swagger to match. It's no surprise that on the day that Foster becomes the franchise's all-time leading rusher, Houston grounds one of its wanna-be AFC South rivals into oblivion.
The running backs combine for 46 carries and 216 yards against the Jaguars. Foster leads the way with 28 rushes for 110 yards and a touchdown, but it's his attitude even more than his skills (few running backs in NFL can duplicate Foster's skill set) that carries over to the other backs on the Texans' roster.
Whether it's Ben Tate, the best No. 2 tailback in football, ripping off 74 yards and two touchdowns on only 12 carries, or even third-string back Justin Forsett coming in late in the fourth quarter and refusing to let the Texans punt even though Jacksonville knows every play is going to be a run, Houston's ball carriers play with force and fury.
And that comes back to Foster. With all his rightful renaissance man hype, the silly vegan debate and the outside-the-NFL-machine quotes, it is sometimes easy to forget just how bad of a man Arian Foster is on gamedays.
The world got a glimpse of Foster, the football warrior, this past week when Monday Night Football featured him on its sounds of the game feature. The segment showed Foster verbally toying with Miami Dolphins cornerback Jimmy Wilson, calling out, "I don't know you, bro" at the overmatched defender at one point.
You can bet Foster was back at it Sunday against the Jaguars in a game in which he went in expecting, "a lot of jibber jaw." (Yes, Arian Foster has his own, better phrase for trash talk as well.)
That's the Texans' force. Foster may be "an aspiring human being" most of the week. But for three hours on Sunday, he'll do everything he can to rip your heart out — physically and psychologically.
"It’s a part of the game," Foster says of trash talking . . . er, jibber jawing. "We’ve been doing that since we were kids. Playing street football, a guy talks stuff to you, you’re going to talk stuff back.
"If he’s short you’re going to call him extremely short, you know? That’s just the nature of the game. You pick on guys and try to get in their heads mentally. It’s all part of the fun."
The career numbers for this undrafted star are already starting to get a little ridiculous. Try 4,633 yards from scrimmage in only 37 games played.
Then, when it's over and the Texans have likely won — Houston's NFL franchise is now 10-4 since it lost that game in Baltimore on Oct. 16, 2011 to drop to .500 for that season — Foster's smile will return and he'll have nothing but kind words to say to the men whose will he's drained.
He won't exchange jerseys on the field with a Jimmy Wilson, the way he would with a fellow running back great like Adrian Peterson. But he'll give him a slap on the back (not the crazy Jim Harbaugh version either).
"To me, I never take it off the field," Foster says. "Especially in the NFL, guys aren’t going to take it off the field. A guy who you’re jawing with back and forth in the game . . . usually at the end of the game you walk up to him and say. ‘It’s all love man, just talking stuff.' "
Arian Foster barks at you, beats you and then beckons you to love him. Forget his Most Interesting Man in the NFL tag. This is one ruthless competitor.
An Early Gap
Foster walks away with a game ball for his work in sun-splashed Jacksonville, as much for becoming a young Texans franchise's career rushing leader as for what he does to the Jags. The career numbers for this undrafted star are already starting to get a little ridiculous.
Try 4,633 yards from scrimmage in only 37 games played.
Foster is more concerned with where the Texans, what he calls a "special group," are going though. The distance the team is already building is a good sign. The Texans, who took a stranglehold over the AFC South as soon as Peyton Manning lost last season to a neck injury, are now 2-0.
That’s just the nature of the game. You pick on guys and try to get in their heads mentally. It’s all part of the fun."
The other three teams in the division? A combined 1-5 with Indianapolis Colts rookie Andrew Luck holding the lone W. And this Texans defense will not need luck to beat down the Stratford High school golden boy.
As Houston linebacker Connor Barwin said earlier this week, "I'd like to think we're a little difficult to play against."
They are — especially with second-year defensive end J.J. Watt on an early tear (three sacks, six pass deflections and a fumble recovery in two games).
The division will once again be no problem for these Bulls. They're hunting larger prey — which is what makes the Arizona Cardinals stunning victory in Foxboro (lead by the once-dismissed former University of Houston star Kevin Kolb no less) and Michael Vick's high-wire act against Baltimore all the more important. The Texans still have to play both the Patriots (1-1) and the Ravens (1-1) and it's earlier than early, but every edge counts.
Houston has one now. They'll need Foster at his best to hold onto it.
Wade Phillips' Miracle Defense will not be able to smother every single opponent into single digits. Sooner or later, most likely this upcoming Sunday in Denver against Manning, the Texans will need some of Foster's big-play flash.
"We've got to keep moving," the back says in a radio interview from Jacksonville.
Hey, whether it's on a Segway or his own $43.5 million feet, Foster has no problem moving quickly.