AUBURN, Ala. – Reuben Foster is back on board with the defending champions. For now.
Foster, a five-star inside linebacker who attends Auburn High School just a few miles from Auburn University, declared his verbal commitment to Alabama late Monday night in an appearance on Fox Sports South, returning to the Crimson Tide after decommitting from Nick Saban’s program last summer.
As always, nothing is official until Wednesday. Foster cannot be signed, sealed or delivered to Tuscaloosa until National Signing Day, which gives him about 36 hours if he chooses to change his mind.
Admitting his heart rate was through the roof, and nervously rubbing his hands over his face, Foster revealed his decision with his family standing behind him in studio for a pre-recorded segment in Atlanta.
“Well,” Foster said, cradling his 4-year-old daughter A’Ziya, “you know, I’ve got to do it for family. And I love my family, especially this little nugget right here. But I will be attending … the University of Alabama.”
Foster was clearly in angst announcing his selection of Alabama, with his mother and daughter currently living in Auburn. That had been a presumed major advantage for the Tigers in Foster’s recruitment.
At 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, Foster has long been sought-after as one of the nation’s top recruiting targets. He played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star and Under Armour All-American games this winter, after helping Auburn High School to an 11-2 record and the Alabama Class 6A semifinals.
Foster was an Auburn commit from July 12 to Dec. 7. On July 12, he held a press conference at Auburn High School to announce his flip from Alabama to Auburn, which he declared by unzipping A’Ziya’s jacket and revealing her Auburn cheerleading uniform.
On Dec. 7, Foster re-opened his recruitment for a third time, when it became clear his primary Auburn recruiter, Trooper Taylor, would not be retained to Gus Malzahn’s staff. Taylor is expected to take the year off from coaching.
“Coach Trooper showed me something new, and I fell in love with him,” Foster said. “But it ain’t all about emotion. It’s about the business now. I was mad and upset because he left, but it’s a business decision.”
Foster, who has an AU tattoo on his right arm, originally committed to Alabama in July 2011, sticking with the Crimson Tide for a year before his first change of heart.
“The experience has been overwhelming,” he said. “There’s been so much pressure. I’ve been having angry voicemails. It’s crazy how fans blow up your Twitter and call you names. It hurt. But you’ve got to do what’s best for your family, and your daughter. That’s the important thing to me.”
Monday morning, Foster tweeted, “Stress City, Heart Beating Fast, Frog Throat, Best Choice For Me and My Family #commitment”
Foster said he made his final choice “on my way up here” to the studio. He also said he originally decided to decommit from Alabama because he felt he was too young to make a final decision, and thus gave himself time to look around.
“I’ve been loving Alabama since (I was) a pup, raised as an Alabama fan from my mom and dad,” Foster said. “I’m super-excited to know they can put me in that next level, take care of my little girl and my family.”
Officially, Foster took visits to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, San Diego State and Washington. His final official visit was to Auburn this past weekend, but he abruptly left for undisclosed reasons and was reported to later show up in Tuscaloosa. He did earn offers from Florida, Miami, Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame and many others.
Scout.com stats listed Foster’s 2012 tallies as 80 tackles (nine for a loss), five sacks and a forced fumble. He also rushed for 16 touchdowns.
His junior season numbers, when he played at Troup County High School in LaGrange (Ga.), were fairly more spectacular: 185 tackles, including 144 solo and 34 for a loss, and 18 sacks, which helped him land high school All-American status.
Foster transferred from Troup County to Auburn in April 2012.