The newest Hawkeye assistant says he wants to be a head coach and is eager to learn from Kirk Ferentz. Mark Emmert/Hawk Central
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Derrick Foster certainly speaks like a football coach.
The Alabama native and newest member of Kirk Ferentz’s staff at Iowa spoke to the media for the first time Wednesday, noting with glee that he’d had the “opportunity” to buy an ice scraper this week.
“(Tuesday), I was out 6 o’clock in the morning scraping snow off the front of my windshield wiper there, so I look forward to that as well,” Foster reported with a smile.
Opportunity was the word of the day for the 31-year-old who spent the past two seasons as the running game coordinator at FCS-level Samford in Alabama. He used some form of the word about two dozen times over the course of a 15-minute news conference, coming across as excited to be coaching at the Big Ten Conference level and eager to learn all he can from a veteran staff.
Foster interviewed with Ferentz a year ago when the Hawkeyes had two coaching openings, but those jobs went to Kelton Copeland and Tim Polasek.
When the NCAA allowed football teams to add a 10th assistant coach this year, Ferentz brought Foster on board. Foster will coach running backs at Iowa. Brian Ferentz will coach tight ends and fullbacks in addition to serving as offensive coordinator.
“He made a great impression,” Kirk Ferentz said of Foster’s 2017 job interview. “We’re very confident he’s going to add a lot to our football program, be really good for our players.”
Foster said he’s only met briefly with the three healthy scholarship running backs Iowa returns this season — Ivory Kelly-Martin, Toren Young and Kyshaun Bryan — but will be sitting down with each of them soon to learn more. He will be charged with helping the Hawkeyes replace the 1,905 rushing and receiving yards produced by seniors Akrum Wadley and James Butler a year ago. Those two also scored 14 touchdowns.
“One of my strengths is being able to relate to players, develop those relationships on and off the field where I can get my guys to trust me that they’re willing to go out and playing … extremely hard for me,” Foster said. “Hard-working, dedication is what they’re going to get out of me.”
Foster is a native of Goshen, Alabama, population 255. At just 5-foot-8, he was a 1,000-yard rusher in high school and went on to play at Southwest Baptist College in Missouri. There, he was converted to wide receiver. Screen plays were his specialty.
“I was a scatback kind of guy,” Foster said. “Quick, in and out, jittery guy.”
He caught 93 passes as a three-year starter and then embarked on a coaching career, with stops at Tennessee, Northwestern State and Valdosta State. At Valdosta, in southern Georgia, Foster was on the same staff as Seth Wallace. When Wallace moved on to Iowa, where he coaches linebackers, he put in a good word with Ferentz about his former colleague.
That led to last year’s interview. That led to this year’s opportunity.
With his ties to the football-fertile Deep South, it would seem natural to make that Foster’s prime recruiting area. He said that hasn’t been decided yet.
But recruiting is in his blood.
“I’m genuine. When it comes to it, I’m a straight shooter,” Foster said. “And I think that I develop that same relationship with young men and I think that’s what they believe in (at Iowa), is we come off as a genuine staff.”
Foster’s wife, Bianca, is a native of Jacksonville, Florida. She has yet to move north. She hasn’t had the opportunity to buy her first ice scraper.
But it wasn’t hard to convince her to pack up for Iowa in the dead of winter, Foster said.
“She’s a bit of a traveler. She likes to go different places. That’s one of the reasons why I married her,” Foster said. “I like to say I was a pretty good recruiter because I got her to come on board and come with me all over the place.
“She’ll easily adjust. She always has. She’s been my backbone.”
The new Hawkeye assistant talks about his strengths as a running backs coach Mark Emmert/Hawk Central
Foster’s long-range goal is to become an offensive coordinator and eventually a head coach.
“I’m here under the tutelage of one of the longest-tenured coaches in college football,” Foster said of Ferentz, in his 19th year at the Hawkeye helm. “It would be bad of me not to sit here and soak up as much information from someone who has been so successful over the years and figure out how he’s done it the way he’s done it.
“I look forward to that relationship.”