College football and men’s basketball present a familiar paradox for fans: The more prolific your favorite player is, the more likely he is to bolt for the pros. The risk of injury and mediocre seasons can hurt draft stock and cost athletes millions of dollars—it’s often the best option.
Longhorns have seen it many times before: Vince Young, Kevin Durant, and Myles Turner are just recent examples. You can now add the nation’s leading rusher D’Onta Foreman to that list. He announced this afternoon at a press conference that he is foregoing his final year of eligibility and will hire an agent for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Beginning the season as the starter but splitting carries with sophomore Chris Warren III, Foreman became the sole workhorse back after Warren injured his knee during the Oklahoma State game on October 4. With his battery-mate sidelined, the Longhorns leaned on Foreman heavily, who topped 24 carries in the remaining seven games, including a whopping 51 in the Nov. 19 loss to Kansas.
“I had thoughts about it,” Foreman said, when he was asked if he knew he was leaving after Texas’ season-ending loss to TCU. With his twin brother Armanti seated next to him, he confirmed that he didn’t make the final decision until he had spoken with his family.
With his heavy workload came national attention, as Foreman gradually approached and then overtook San Diego State’s Donell Pumphrey as the country’s leading rusher with 2,028 yards in one fewer game played. Along the way, he broke the all-time Texas record of 11 consecutive 100-yard rushing games, previously held by Earl Campbell, and became just the second 2,000-yard single-season rusher in Texas history, joining Ricky Williams. His 341 yards against Texas Tech on Nov. 5 are the third most in a single game in Texas history, trailing Roosevelt Leaks vs. SMU in 1973 (342) and Ricky Williams vs. Iowa St. in 1998 (350).
Despite a middling 5-7 record in a season that saw Texas part ways with head coach Charlie Strong, Foreman’s transcendent season places him as one of the greatest running backs in Texas history, no small feat considering the immense talent at the position throughout school history. When asked if he’d be leaving even if Strong was retained, he answered concisely: “Probably so.”
D’Onta was forthcoming about what he’d like his legacy to be.
“I want to be remembered as one of the best backs to come through here,” Foreman said. “I feel like I’ve earned that.”
ESPN.com ranks Foreman No. 5 on its annual Heisman watch. Foreman is also a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given annually since 1990 to the nation’s best running back. Foreman would join Ricky Williams (1997-98) and Cedric Benson (2004) if he were to win.
“I definitely think I should be in New York,” Foreman said. The Heisman is awarded each December in Manhattan. “It’s supposed to be the best player. I feel like I was one of those.”
CBS.com ranks Foreman as the No. 7 RB in the 2017 NFL Draft, projecting the Texas City, TX native as a second- or third-round pick. For reference, Tennessee selected a similar-sized back in Alabama’s Derrick Henry with the 45th pick in the second round in 2016, giving the rookie a $5.4 million deal, with $3.3 fully guaranteed. Foreman was asked which franchise he’d like to play for.
“Honestly,” he said. “Anybody who’ll give me some money.” The packed room erupted in laughter.
Foreman confirmed that he has started the process of selecting an agent, and has a good idea of who it will be, but has not made anything official yet.
With Armanti returning for his senior season and talented players still in the Texas locker room, D’Onta said the future is bright for the Longhorns despite his absence.
“I’m going to be rooting for them the rest of the way,” Foreman said. “I’m going to be a Longhorn for the rest of my life.”
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