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Fostering a Champion

Feb 04, 2014 10:36AM ● Published by Anonymous

Photo courtesy of Bludoor Studios

By Linden Wilson

On Nov. 30, 2013, all eyes were on Cade Foster. The 6’1’’, 220-pound senior placekicker for the Alabama Crimson Tide had already missed a 45-yard field goal against the Auburn Tigers during the first quarter of the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium. When a shorter kick he made later in the game had to be re-kicked because an offensive lineman moved offside, Cade missed the retry. With less than three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Alabama was up 28 to 21 and Cade was up to kick a third field goal from 44 yards out. This time, it was blocked, and Auburn was able to gain a touchdown and tie the game at 28. Most everyone knows what happened next — Cade, benched in favor of redshirt freshman kicker Adam Griffith, watched from the sideline as Adam missed a 57-yard field goal that Auburn returned for a touchdown to win the game, 34 to 28, as the clock expired.

The aftermath was a media frenzy. What many referred to as one of the most dramatic endings to a game in college football history was overshadowed by the numerous death threats and hate mail Cade Foster received on social media. Yet his teammates quickly came to his defense (quarterback AJ McCarron tweeted, “If you blame this on one guy, you aren’t a true fan!”), and thousands of letters of support from fans began pouring in. One piece of mail Cade received came from an unexpected source: President George W. Bush. “Dear Cade (#43),” the letter reads. “Life has its setbacks. I know! However, you will be a stronger human with time. I wish you all the best. Sincerely, another 43, George Bush.”

The entire season leading up to the Iron Bowl, Cade made 11 of 12 field goals, and the rest of his career had been virtually flawless. The only other time he experienced as rough a game was during his sophomore season against the LSU Tigers, when he also missed three field goal attempts and Alabama lost in overtime. The Tide’s recent loss to the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2014 Sugar Bowl also proved difficult, but Cade is no stranger to adversity, and he knew how to hold his head high and deal with the defeat. 

A leg up

After moving from Fort Worth to Southlake in the eighth grade, Cade Foster, formerly a soccer player, decided to take up football because essentially, it runs in his blood. Cade’s father, Dan, played defensive back, and his grandfather, Herman, was an All-American offensive lineman — both were both state champions in high school. In 2006, Cade won his own state championship as a freshman at Southlake Carroll with a 43-29 victory over Austin Westlake under the leadership of Coach Todd Dodge.

“I had a lot of fun that year,” Cade says. “The camaraderie of high school football, especially in Texas, is unmatched. The support of the team in Southlake is the best in the nation, in my opinion, from the awesome band to the Emerald Belles to all of the teachers and parents who support football.”

The following season, Todd Dodge left Southlake to coach at the University of North Texas, and it was Hal Wasson who took his place. He and Cade quickly formed a close bond that lasted throughout Cade’s high school career.

“Cade’s a tremendous competitor,” Hal says. “He played middle linebacker for us and also served as our kicker, so that’s quite a contrast in positions. He was the ultimate team player, and that’s what I admired about him — his work ethic, passion and competitive spirit. He’s a very sincere young man. I always say the greatest compliment a player can receive is that he’s a great teammate.”

In February of his junior year, Cade was in the middle of history class when his phone began blowing up with text messages saying Alabama head coach Nick Saban was trying to reach him. Moments later, when his phone rang with a number that he didn’t recognize, Cade asked his teacher if he could step out into the hallway.

“Coach Saban offered me the scholarship right there on the phone,” Cade says. “I said I wanted to take a visit first, so I went to watch them play South Carolina. They won pretty handedly and won a national championship that year. I committed and never looked back.”

Cade goes collegiate

The biggest challenge for Cade in his transition from high school to college football was moving from linebacker to kicker — which required a completely different mentality.

“As a linebacker, you go out and have 70 or so plays, and you’ll have good ones and bad ones,” Cade explains. “But if you miss a big kick, you’re going to be scrutinized for it more heavily than for your good kicks.”

During his senior season at Alabama, Cade racked up 96 total points from 11 field goals and 56 PATs, compared to 12 total points his junior year, six his sophomore year and 28 his freshman year. Throughout his college career, Cade spent more than twice the amount of time in the weight room as his teammates, as kickers need specific training to work various different muscles. He would first work out with the rest of the team doing exercises like Olympic lifts, power cleans and squats, then follow with a lot of his own core and strengthening exercises specific to kicking. During football season, the team spent about eight hours per day training and practicing, with four hours of classes in between morning workouts and evening practice.

“I considered it a full-time job,” Cade says. “But it didn’t feel like one because it’s so fun and enjoyable.” Cade, who graduated with a degree in business last year and will receive his master’s degree this August, says he’s thrived at Alabama both academically and athletically because Tuscaloosa and the rest of the state remind him of where he grew up.

“Alabama is very comparative to the feel and culture of Texas,” he says. “It’s in the south, and there are people here with good morals and good values. I’m very blessed to be a part of this school.”

Cade’s family made it to every single one of his home games during his college football career, either driving or flying down and staying in their Tuscaloosa condo for the weekend. He counts them and his grandparents — all Southlake residents — as his biggest supporters, especially since they have been immersed in football culture their entire lives.

“They’re proud of me and see the kind of character that I have, and that’s the most important thing,” Cade says. “They’re going to love me whether I make all my kicks or miss every one of them.”

Tackling adversity

The Alabama-Auburn matchup drew 13.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched college football game of the season up until that date, and Cade knew just how many people were watching him.

“It was an exciting game to be a part of, but I didn’t have my best game at all,” he says. “Missing the kick that I had to retake was really disappointing because that’s a kick that I’ve made 100 percent in my whole college career. That was really tough to deal with. The other kicks people were also trying to blame on me, but at the end of the day, one was a challenging kick, and I don’t have much control over a blocked field goal.”

The Sunday after the Iron Bowl, Hal Wasson was driving home from church when he decided to give Cade a call. Hal’s Southlake Carroll football team had just suffered a loss to Euless Trinity in the playoffs that same weekend.

“I reminded Cade that he can choose to conquer adversity,” Hal recalls. “I told him to never let anyone affect the way he feels about himself. It’s okay to be disappointed, but there’s never been one kick or one game that defined a person. Last time I checked, Alabama had a great season. And how many guys can say they were a part of two national titles?”

Hal mentions that he gets annoyed when people get overly critical and negative about football games — particularly on social media where speculation runs rampant — especially because most can’t relate to what the players actually go through.

“I don’t think people realize how hard it is to win a game, to make a kick or make a tackle at that level,” he says. “It’s okay to have an opinion, but it’s so tragic when people take it too far because they have probably never even played a football game.”

During their conversation, Hal says Cade actually ended up making him feel better, which is directly indicative of who Cade is — humble, caring and concerned more for his teammates than for himself.

Post-season goals

Now that his college football career has come to an end, Cade remains intent on furthering his education even after he receives his master’s degree, either by studying to receive his MBA or going to law school.

“Unless I get strong consideration for the NFL, I’m probably going to hang up my cleats and my helmet,” he says. Hal, who tells each and every one of his players that he has their backs for a lifetime, believes Cade has what it takes to play with the pros.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Cade can kick at any level,” he says. “There’s no coach or player who’s ever been perfect and there never will be. If he chooses to go the NFL route, I have no doubt that he would be extremely successful at it. But at the end of the day, whatever he chooses, he’s going to be successful because he’s looked adversity square in the eye and he’s blown right through it.”

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