Football player Jaylan Foster signaling on the field during South Carolina vs. Auburn at Williams-Brice Stadium
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
PLAYERS & TEAM EARNINGS

Path to the Pros: South Carolina All-American DB Jaylan Foster

Boardroom spoke with the First Team All-SEC and Second Team All-American safety as he sets his sights on professional dreams at the 2022 NFL Draft.

When Jaylan Foster took the field Friday for the South Carolina Gamecocks’ Pro Day, he did so with a hunger. With a feeling of being underrated and overlooked for his entire career. Despite being an All-SEC and Walter Camp All-American safety and co-leading the SEC in interceptions in 2021, Foster was not invited to this year’s NFL Combine.

It’s only supercharged his motivation as he eyes professional football dreams on the horizon.

Foster will be quick to tell you that he’s used to flying under the radar and proving the skeptics wrong over and over. If you’re not familiar with the style of this former walk-on’s handiwork, you might figure him to be frustrated about the position he’s in — some projections have him pegged as an undrafted free agent — but in speaking with Foster, Boardroom found a man more grateful than ever.

With his dreams of being an NFL player drawing closer, this underdog feels like he has more to look forward to than to be irritated about. The following is Boardroom’s conversation with Foster earlier this month, lightly edited for clarity.

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RANDALL WILLIAMS: Did not receiving an invite to the NFL Combine put a chip on your shoulder?

JAYLAN FOSTER: No, I always have a chip on my shoulder. Ever since coming out of high school, I’ve had one. It’s nothing new to me.

A lot of people were making a big deal out of it and reacting funny when I wasn’t invited to the Combine but I’m used to being the underdog. My work and grind isn’t going to change, God will take care of everything else.

RW: What was it like to balance the team’s goal of winning and your individual goal of going to the NFL?

JF: It was easy. Growing up, my dad always taught me if the team is accomplishing its goals, then you’ll get the recognition you’re supposed to get. I wasn’t really worried about myself except for making sure I was the best player and teammate for my team as I could be.  

RW: What kind of impact did your father play in your life?

JF: He was huge in my life. He’s my biggest hater because no matter how good I play, he’s always going to find that one thing I did wrong — but I appreciate that from him because with the world we live in, everybody’s always telling you how great you are and he always keeps it real.

He showed me the ropes. Growing up, seeing him play church league softball, other sports, and just seeing how he worked, it’s part of the reason I am who I am today.

RW: On July 1, 2021, you and thousands of other college athletes’ lives were changed when the NCAA allowed you to monetize your name, image, and likeness. How have you taken advantage?

JF: I had a couple [NIL deals]. I did an interview with Gamecock Central, Firehouse Subs, and a couple more. I wasn’t really worried about it, I just wanted to play ball and get to the next level

RW: Did those NIL deals make a big difference in your life?

JF: I wasn’t worried about the money side of it; it was more about being a good person to the community and get my name out there in the community. I wanted to give people the chance to know me outside of football, that’s why I was doing it. The money will eventually take care of itself.

RW: If I’m an NFL general manager, why are you a guy I need to take in the draft?

JF: I’m a dog. I love to compete. I don’t care how big my opponent is or what they think of me, I just compete and leave it all out there on the field. I’m going to have fun and bring high IQ to the team along with energy. I go 110% on the field every single play.

RW: There are alternative football leagues on the rise. Are you willing to go play in the XFL, USFL, or even Fan Controlled Football?

JF: I just want to play football, so whatever opportunity is presented to me, I’ll take it.

RW: Whom do you model your game after?

JF: Jalen Ramsey, because I feel like he’s the best corner in the league. He’s a dog and I feel like I’m a dog, so any time you get to watch a dog perform, it’s a learning experience. Tyrann Mathieu is another guy who’s a dog, he’s always around making plays. Kenny Moore is really good in the slot so I learn a lot from him, too. 

RW: Are there players out there that would probably have you feeling starstruck if you met them?

JF: I definitely have a couple. Jalen Ramsey and Tyrann Mathieu for sure. Kenny Moore and Julio [Jones]. All those guys I’d be hyped to meet and compete against.

RW: If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be and why?

JF: An underdog.

I’ve always been told I’d be a good defensive back but coaches don’t want guys at that height. Coming out of high school. Having been at the bottom and knowing how much work you have to do to get to the top, I’ve been doing it my whole life. And I’m not going to stop now. 

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