Sept. 21, 2001
By JOHN NADEL
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES - DeShaun Foster says he's looking to help No. 14 UCLA win games rather than win trophies for himself.
It hasn't always been that way, but Foster says he starting to grow up.
Early in his career, he talked about winning the Heisman Trophy. But now that he's off to a terrific start, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior is no longer interested in personal goals, the team comes first.
"I just try to play the game, not get caught up in all that," Foster says. "I think some of it is just maturity. It's not always about stats, I've learned that.
"When I was younger, I thought more about it. I used to watch that Heisman stuff all the time. But you learn - it's more about the team and winning.
"If it happens, it happens."
Foster gained 299 yards on 52 carries (5.8-yard average) as UCLA won at Alabama and Kansas earlier this month, and ranks fourth in the country with a 149.5-yard per-game rushing average.
Coach Bob Toledo made it clear the way the Bruins played in their first two games that Foster is the focal point of the offense - a change from his previous five years at UCLA, when the quarterback was generally the main cog.
"I'm going to ride that horse, OK?" Toledo says. "I've coached a lot of great ones and seen a lot of great ones, he's as good as they get. If he's not a No. 1 draft choice in April, someone's going to be missing the boat.
"He's big, he's tough, he's strong, he's fast, he can catch, he can block, he can do it all. He just has to stay healthy so I can be a good coach."
That's been a problem for Foster, and was one of the reasons he returned rather than turn pro.
"I still had stuff to prove, and I knew we had a good team, too," he says. "I'm having fun here."
Foster actually got off to a faster start last year, gaining 327 yards on 71 carries in UCLA's first two games - both wins. But defenses began catching up with him, and he broke his right hand while stiff-arming an Arizona State defender early in the fifth game.
He missed the next game as well, and was hampered the remainder of the season. However, he still finished with 1,037 yards on 269 carries while playing for a .500 team.
Foster gained 673 yards - the most ever by a freshman at UCLA - on 126 carries in 1998. Bothered by a sprained ankle most of his sophomore season, he gained only 375 yards on 111 carries.
Foster came to UCLA considered one of the country's top backs after gaining 3,398 yards on 323 carries and scoring 59 touchdowns as a senior at nearby Tustin High.
Toledo doesn't believe Foster is injury-prone despite what happened the last two seasons. Foster feels the same way.
"I try not to think about it too much," he says. "Getting hurt comes with the games. It doesn't bother me, really."
Center Troy Danoff said it's a pleasure playing in front of Foster.
"Give him a little room, and he's going to make something out of it," Danoff said. "He's got the speed, he's got great vision, he runs hard. Give him a little room, he's going to make a lot of out it.
"We want to get DeShaun his yards, that's one way to judge us, how well he does."
Quarterback Cory Paus is happy to play a supporting role. Besides, the fourth-year junior believes his day will come - perhaps Saturday when the Bruins (2-0) face No. 21 Ohio State (1-0) at the Rose Bowl.
"The front seven of Ohio State is good, but they will be trying to stop DeShaun," Paus says. "Hopefully, we can loosen them up with some passes. Then, we'll go back to the run. They're going to force us to throw the ball, I'm assuming. We're going to have to do that."
Paus, 18 of 38 for 283 yards and two touchdowns this year, said that after handing the ball to Foster, he doesn't always carry out his fake the way he should.
"Sometimes, I find myself watching him because he's so impressive," Paus says. "I'm not supposed to, so I shouldn't be telling you that."