For DeShaun Foster, his 33-yard touchdown run in the 2003 Super Bowl unfolded by happenstance.
“It was just a trap and I was able to move up the middle and I was just trying to get to the sideline,” Foster said of the run, which stands as the fifth best in championship history. “I was trying to get through a block but I ran through it and the defender, so I was just trying to get through there and it was off to the races after that.”
The Panthers lost the game to the New England Patriots, but it still stands the test of time as one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played.
Foster began his journey in sports as a baseball player playing shortstop and centerfield before friends on the team convinced him to go out for football.
He excelled in high school football. At Tustin High School in California, he earned the Glenn Davis award, which is given to a player by the Los Angeles Times who is the best in that area.
Foster said he credits the system as one of the finest things he remembers from his high school gridiron days.
“Just the type of offense we played, I had played football with those guys for a long time,” Foster said. “So it was kind of fun just to play pop warner with the guys and go all the way up through high school playing with those guys.”
Foster had committed to Texas for school, but ultimately chose UCLA.
He set team true freshman rushing records with 673 yards and 10 touchdowns. His final year in college set his draft stock high with six games of over 100 rushing yards setting UCLA single-game records against Washington University with 301 yards as well as a record-tying four touchdowns. Both have since been broken by Maurice Jones-Drew coincidentally against Washington.
Foster was drafted in the second round by the Carolina Panthers with the 34th pick. Going to the NFL was not the only thing that made the UCLA alum happy, but with it also going to be a homecoming.
“Being I was born in Charlotte, it was pretty exciting,” Foster said. “Because both my grandparents, both sides of the family lives in Charlotte so it was pretty exciting to go back home and be able to play in front of my family.”
It started positive with his first preseason carry, going 65 yards for a score. Things took a turn when Foster that same game suffered a knee micro-fracture ending his rookie season.
“I had never had a knee injury before so I was just determined to get back,” Foster said. “I was just trying to stay positive and stuff because it was a tricky surgery, it was pretty disappointing you never want to go out there and get hurt in the preseason so it was pretty sad.”
The 2003 season is longed remembered by Panthers fans as a season of gut-wrenching moments. These heart-attack victories are part of Foster’s best memories that season.
“Just the type of wins we were getting and fighting all the way to the end,” Foster said. “It was just a real team effort and it was exciting especially only being my second year and that type of success so early is pretty cool.”
The one thing he regrets. Is that he did not capture enough personal memories on camera.
“The one thing is that you wish you took more pictures and stuff,” Foster said. “As a young player I don’t think I took enough, or video and stuff like that you always think you’ll go back thinking, ‘Oh I’ll go back, we’ll go back to the Super Bowl.'”
With the exception of the outcome, the Super Bowl itself to Foster was one great experience after another.”
“It’s all positive until I think about the end of it,” Foster said. “It was a great game and we lost to a Dynasty, it’s not that we just lost to a random team, they’ve continued to do this and we just didn’t have enough time [to answer the field goal.]”
Foster has since returned to his college alma mater and currently serves as running backs coach. That like the fateful Super Bowl run, was all happenstance.
“I was just coming back to finish my degree,” Foster said. “I was talking to one of my old coaches Bobby Fields and he said, ‘You should come back around the team since your here everyday for school’ and I was like, ‘Ok’ and it just kind of stuck from there.”
Foster loves being back around the game with the elements of team and camaraderie making this a fun new part of his journey.
“Just developing players, and seeing them just go through their growth,” Foster said. “It’s exciting, you get to mold them, teach them stuff.”
Back at UCLA and around the game he loves, Foster most excited about paying it forward.
“You miss football because you can’t run out there and play so you might as well find some way to get involved in it,” Foster said. “And I can give back too to my school, so it’s like a double plus.”
Having carried the ball first, Foster hopes to be remembered this time for the wisdom he spreads in his life after football.
“It means a lot [when a player you coached thanks you,]” Foster said. “And I have the opportunity being that I was a player also and I can coach off of how I liked to be coached and it works out well.”