Southeast Missouri State football team's Foster says maturity key to a successful season

Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Southeast Missouri State receiver D.J. Foster led the Redhawks with 25 receptions despite missing four games because of suspension last season. (Fred Lynch)

Southeast Missouri State wide receiver D.J. Foster says the only thing that prevented him from having a big season last year was himself.

He takes full responsibility.

Foster admitted exhibiting immature behavior at various times in 2011, and it wound up costing him four games due to a pair of team suspensions.

"It was definitely my fault," he said. "There were just things I had to develop mentally. But it's all water under the bridge now."

Southeast coach Tony Samuel emphasized that Foster did not run into any off-the-field problems. Samuel said Foster simply didn't demonstrate the type of on-the-field behavior that the Redhawks demand.

Southeast Missouri State wide receiver D.J. Foster tries to break through Redhawks defenders Josh Freeman, left, and Sam Poole during Saturday's scrimmage at Houck Stadium. (Fred Lynch)

"He's very excitable," Samuel said. "He's a kid that really gets after it in games. You just have to learn to control that. He didn't get into any trouble off the field. He's a great kid. He just didn't handle himself on the field like he needed to.

"This is the ultimate team sport. Everybody has to be on the same page."

Foster began last year with a bang after coming on strong late as a redshirt freshman during Southeast's record-setting 2010 season.

The 6-foot-4, 185-pound native of Joliet, Ill., caught a season-high seven passes for 115 yards during a narrow loss at Tennessee Tech. He had two touchdown receptions during a victory over Eastern Illinois. Both performances came in the first four games of the season.

But things soon started spiraling downhill for Foster. He did not make the trip to Eastern Kentucky for Southeast's sixth game due to his first suspension. He played in the next two contests before being suspended for the final three games.

D.J. Foster

Foster said he's not about to dwell on the past. He believes what happened to him last year will benefit him in the long run.

"It opened my eyes that everybody is replaceable," Foster said. "If I'm not going to follow the rules, they can find somebody else. I learned my lessons. I think it will help me as long as I don't make the same mistake twice."

Foster still was Southeast's leading receiver with 25 catches despite all the missed playing time. He scored three touchdowns while averaging 14.1 yards per reception.

But Foster knows he could have done much more, especially to help prevent Southeast's consecutive one-point losses to end the year.

"I did produce a little bit, but I could have done a lot more to help the team the last few games," Foster said.

Foster is determined to aid the Redhawks from start to finish this season as they try to bounce back from last year's 3-8 record that featured a 2-6 Ohio Valley Conference mark.

"I feel good about this year," Foster said. "We lost so many close games that came down to a couple of possessions. All the hard work we put in during the offseason ... I think we've matured as a whole."

Foster remains confident in Southeast's offense even after starting quarterback Kyle Snyder suffered a torn ACL during Friday's practice and will miss the season.

Redshirt freshman Scott Lathrop appears to be in line to replace Snyder, although several other signal callers are in the mix. None of Southeast's healthy quarterbacks has taken a snap in a college game.

"Of course it was tragic when Kyle went down," said Foster, who led Southeast with two catches for 47 yards in Saturday's first scrimmage of preseason camp. "But I do have confidence in Scott. He was around all summer working, like everybody else."

Foster began to show glimpses of his potential late in 2010 after redshirting during his first Southeast season in 2009.

He caught just three passes for 30 yards all year but made the most of his first consistent playing time down the stretch.

Foster caught two passes for 25 yards and scored his first collegiate touchdown during Southeast's final regular-season game, a last-minute loss at Jacksonville State. He then made his first collegiate start during the program's first-ever playoff game, a loss at eventual national champion Eastern Washington.

"As I was getting in a lot more, I started maturing," Foster said.

The maturation process continues. Samuel said he has seen plenty of it in Foster since last year's problems.

"We all know he's got the talent level," said Samuel, whose squad will have its second and final scrimmage of preseason camp at 1 p.m. Saturday at Houck Stadium. "He's matured. It seems like he had a real good summer finding himself."

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