Derrick Foster's pitch to Hawkeye football recruits from south: Follow my example

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

Derrick Foster uses himself as an example when trying to recruit football players from the South to play at Iowa.

“Every one of those prospects that are coming out of high school are not going to play in the (Southeastern Conference). So my sale and my pitch is, ‘Hey, try something different,’” Foster said in an interview on Wednesday’s “HawkCentral” radio program on KxNO.

Foster is an Alabama native hired this winter to coach running backs at Iowa. He also has spent five months trying to make inroads in recruiting in his native state and Georgia. It’s familiar ground for him, as is the notion of leaving home to play college football. Foster was a wide receiver at Southwest Baptist College, a Division II program in Missouri.

“I had to come to the realization that I’ve got to step out of my comfort zone to put myself in a better position for my education purposes and my future purposes,” said Foster, 31. “So I challenge these guys to step outside of their box. Sometimes when we’re around something so long, we get accustomed and comfortable to that environment.”

Iowa football assistant coach Derrick Foster works with the running backs during a spring football practice on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, at the Iowa football performance center in Iowa City.

Foster said he’s been heartened to see some Southern athletes visit Iowa City this spring and summer.

“The reaction from these young men and their parents, is, ‘Wow, I didn’t know it was like this.’ And so one thing I tell them is, ‘Listen, don’t try to focus on what your perception is of this place until you can put your eyes on it and it experience it for yourself.’”

Foster dispelled the notion that Iowa is merely targeting Southern football players who have “fallen through the cracks” and aren’t getting looked at by local powerhouses such as Alabama, Georgia and Auburn.

“It’s about finding and identifying talent,” he said.

“I think the coaches down there are definitely looking forward to developing relationships with us and trying to start that small pipeline.”

You can hear the entire interview on a podcast at


Other highlights from Foster’s remarks:


Foster said the common perception of sophomore running backs Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin is correct. Young, at 221 pounds, is the bruiser. Kelly-Martin, at 201 pounds, is a prototypical “change of pace” back.

They enter the summer first in line to replace the graduated Akrum Wadley as Iowa’s primary option in the backfield. Young is the vocal leader of the group, Foster said. Kelly-Martin is much quieter.

“I see these guys being able to be utilized in different situations in the game,” Foster said when asked how he saw the duo splitting time. “I think come fall camp we’ve definitely got an opportunity to see who’s going to take charge in that role. You have to play to their strength to see which back is better for which play. Some guys are good at outside zone runs. Some guys are good at inside zone runs. Some guys are one-cut, get-north guys. Some guys have a little more wiggle than the other.”

Foster said Kelly-Martin, listed as the backup to Young on the depth chart, had a strong spring despite a few dropped passes. He praised Kelly-Martin for being willing to work on his weaknesses.

“He has really good vision,” Foster said of Kelly-Martin. “When you talk about change of direction, this young man is able to stick his toe in the ground and get north as quick as possible and get his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and make people miss him in tight, little spaces.”


Foster is a huge proponent of a new rule that allows true freshmen to play in up to four games without losing that year of eligibility. Iowa is thin at running back this season, so first-year players Henry Geil and Samson Evans might be needed to shore up the position in case of an injury. But they also can get valuable playing time in games in which the Hawkeyes have a large lead, Foster said.

Or, perhaps they show over time that they deserve some snaps when November rolls around.

“Some guys develop a little later than others,” Foster said. “You come towards the end of the season and you get to the point where, ‘Hey, this guy’s made some steps forward. Let’s get him a couple of reps. Let’s get him in there without burning his redshirt.’”