Five summers ago, Kendrick Foster had not even set foot in Peoria Richwoods High School.
Yet Roland Brown knew about him.
Saw the potential there.
It was hard for the Peoria Richwoods (Ill.) High School football head coach not to.
“We were doing summer conditioning,” Brown said. “Here was this eighth-grader out there with a weighted vest on working out on his own by himself just going through different drills. That caught our attention right away because you don’t find a lot of eighth-graders that will dedicate themselves that much to getting better.”
The dedication didn’t stop for Foster once he walked into the hallways at Richwoods and onto the Knights’ home field.
Not even close.
Even if the diminutive back had his doubters despite showcasing his skills in the Peoria Junior Football League. He only stood 5 feet, 5 inches in his final JFL season.
Four years later, he’s 5-7 1/2. Maybe 5-8. But a rock solid 190 pounds.
“After JFL, I had a lot of people tell me I can’t do this at the high school level,” Foster said. “I pretty much set high expectations for myself going into high school on what I needed to do and where I needed to get. It just followed from there.”
Foster is one of 16 high school seniors who is expected to sign a letter of intent on Wednesday to increase Illinois’ Class of 2013 up to 26 players after 10 players in the class enrolled early.
While Bolingbrook High School quarterback Aaron Bailey, Darby (Ohio) High School defensive back/wide receiver Caleb Day and Miami Norland High School’s defensive end Paul James are names people bring up right away when discussing Tim Beckman’s first full recruiting class, Foster’s isn’t far behind.
“Foster will play right away,” said Tom Lemming, a college football recruiting expert for CBS Sports Network. “He’s a very strong little guy with some very good speed. If the offensive line can do their job, Kendrick could be a big hit right away.”
He was nearly from the onset at Richwoods.
Brown didn’t want to rush Foster into immediate playing time at the varsity level during his freshman season, but couldn’t resist bringing him up once the Knights qualified for the 2009 Class 5A playoffs.
“We wanted to make sure that he had a chance to establish himself,” Brown said. “He had tremendous foot speed. He’s just a compact kid. We didn’t know for sure until we really got things going, but he made a pretty good impact as soon as he came up with us in the playoffs.”
In limited duty while helping Richwoods advance to the state semifinals, Foster rushed for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
He was just getting started.
Next came a sophomore season where Foster was the main cog in Richwoods’ offense.
He didn’t disappoint, rushing for 2,004 yards on 233 carries and 21 touchdowns.
The Knights continued their success on the field, advancing once again to the 5A state semifinals.
The potential and production was there. The questions about his ability to play and contribute in college, however, remained.
His size was the biggest factor.
“It’s kind of a disappointment,” Foster said. “I feel like if I was bigger, I’d be a No. 1 recruit as a running back. I kind of feel that a lot of schools didn’t look at me because of that. That’s another reason why I play this game just to prove people wrong. A lot of people don’t give me credit because of my size.”
We'll explore the rest of Foster's career at Richwoods, plus his college decision, in Wednesday's blog.