Chris Foster

Benjamin Russell High School wide receiver Chris Foster

It’s been a long road to the lights of Friday night for Chris Foster.

Benjamin Russell football’s sophomore wide receiver has an injury catalogue longer than most peoples’ grocery lists. Two broken thumbs, two broken wrists, a pulled groin and two hip fractures.

Now that the first-year pass catcher is back in the Wildcats’ stable, he’s shown to be capable of producing at a high rate, with 111 receiving yards and 34 rushing yards in two games this season. And his traits as a player, relative football inexperience and chemistry with Benjamin Russell’s gunslinger all bode well for his future at the Alex-City-based high school.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Foster said about his previous ailments. “I stretch a lot and try to be careful. Some of it you can’t control but most of them you can, like my groin and hip injuries, they came from not stretching enough. So now I stretch a lot. When I go in the weight room, I make sure to stretch. At home, before I go to sleep, all that.”

Foster didn’t play for the Wildcats as a freshman.

Head coach Aubrey Blackwell and his staff were happy he decided to play for his sophomore year, as Foster displayed from an early stage a willingness to learn and plenty of potential at the position.

“The first thing is, he’s very coachable,” wide receivers coach Trey Prestridge said. “Then the first day I got out here this summer, the first thing I noticed is that Chris is a competitor. He’s gonna compete, he brings positive energy day-in and day-out and the guys feed off of that.”

A left hip fracture kept Foster out of the squad’s first three contests as its season got off to a rough start.

Benjamin Russell has been close to victory on several occasions this year, but has still yet to win a game in an 0-5 opening to 2021.

One of the main bright spots during that time has been the team’s passing game. In the four games he’s played, sophomore quarterback Gabe Benton has racked up 938 yards and eight touchdowns through the air.

Benton is questionable for this Friday’s game, but regardless of when he comes back, he’s excited to have the added dimension Foster brings.

“We pretty much know what each other are thinking,” Benton said. “It’s a connection that you always want with at least one of your players out there. It always gives you a backup plan if something happens.”

There’s a reason the two have such an on-field bond: they’ve played sports together since age 5 and been friends practically since they were toddlers.

Benton and Foster form important tandems on both the football field and basketball court for Benjamin Russell, and their long-time friendship has helped in both endeavors.

Foster’s been a point guard for Benjamin Russell’s basketball team since his eighth grade season, when he was called up to play at the varsity level.

“Our chemistry is really good, it’s good for basketball too,” Foster said. “We’ve known each other since we were 2 or 3 years old.”

Foster finally found his chance at a football debut in Week 4 at Helena. 

Benton went down with an ankle injury against the Huskies, and with the Wildcats’ backup quarterback also down, starting defensive back and third-string QB Ty Williams was the only option to get Foster the ball through the air.

He caught six passes for 88 yards and showed some versatility by carrying the ball twice, although he didn’t pick up any yardage on the ground.

“I was glad to be back out there, finally, with my brothers,” Foster said. “We didn’t come out victorious, but I had fun, first varsity game.”

Foster followed that up with three receptions for 24 yards and three carries for 31 yards last Friday at Wetumpka. He even rotated in at quarterback and completed a five-yard pass.

He’ll see frequent usage both in the slot and at running back for the Wildcats as the season progresses.

“As of right now, with Gabe being out, he’s our utility guy,” Prestridge said. “We’ve got him everywhere. He works at quarterback, he works in the slot, he works at the running back.”

Now that his feet are back under him, Foster stated his focus for the remaining season will be improving his intangibles at the position and avoiding further injury.

“Route running, catching the ball, running routes at full speed, anything to help the team,” Foster said.

The best news for Benjamin Russell is that, like all of its top receivers, Foster will be back next season.

Where he differs from the team’s two leading wideouts in terms of yardage, juniors Corri Milliner and La’Bronski McKinney, is that he’ll have an additional year beyond the 2022 season as a current sophomore. 

“The sky is the limit for Chris,” Prestridge said. “I hope that he can stay healthy. I know he’s a basketball guy, and I hope to get him in the weight room this next summer and this offseason. We can get him ready to stay healthy a whole season so we can watch him compete all year.”

Foster and the Wildcats get a chance to grab their first win of the season at Smiths Station Friday.

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