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January 27, 2012
Arizona State's 2012 recruiting class got a significant boost Friday following the verbal commitment of coveted Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro running back D.J. Foster.
Foster, the No. 71 overall prospect in the Rivals100, selected ASU over Cal and USC on what would have been the 22nd birthday of his sister Jennifer, who died three years ago.
More than any other in the 2012 class, Foster's recruitment was a focal point of fans, local media and two Sun Devil coaching staffs.
When Foster donned the ASU hat in front of a press conference audience in excess of 100 people, including television cameras from every major network in Phoenix, the school earned its highest ranked in-state commitment since Zach Miller in 2004.
Even as he went to sleep Thursday night, Foster was unsure whether he'd announce for the hometown Sun Devils or Bears.
"I was leaning toward ASU a little but I was still figuring it out, praying on it, laying out my options, what I like about each school, what each school has to offer," Foster said. "I feel like I can't go wrong staying home. I truly do. I feel like if I work hard, take care of business, do what I have to do, I can't go wrong."
Upon the hiring of head coach Todd Graham last month, Foster was viewed as the top priority in recruiting. Foster had been rumored to be close to committing at least twice under previous coach Dennis Erickson before the Sun Devils lost their final four regular season games and Erickson was dismissed.
Many had assumed that the timing of the Graham hire -- close to the quiet period -- and the departure of ASU offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and recruiting coordinator Steve Broussard to UCLA would spell doom for the Sun Devils.
It was Cal though, not UCLA, that took advantage of the coaching change. Foster visited the school in December and left the campus proclaiming the Golden Bears as his new leader. That would change.
After the quiet period ended, Foster had a meeting at Saguaro with Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. The Sun Devils would meet again with Foster before he headed to USC for an official visit.
Reports coming out of Los Angeles following that trip indicated the Trojans would be the winner in the end. Foster had in fact told different media outlets after his official visits to Oregon and Cal that each school was his leader.
Maybe for that reason -- or just because of his general aggressive approach -- Graham set up a unofficial visit with Foster and family the same day they arrived back in Phoenix from the USC official.
"I knew everything I need to know about ASU; the family, the friend support, the program," Foster said. "It was just getting a relationship with the new staff. I just had a great talk with him. He came to my school, we didn't talk about football at first. It was just God.
"It's just a blessing to have this situation and I couldn't agree more with him. I went down to ASU a few times and saw the work ethic. Coach Norvell showed me some of the plays and his excitement got me going. I'm just excited to be a part of the program."
Still even after the final USC and ASU visits, the Bears were able to jump back in at the eleventh hour after an in-home official visit Tuesday night left Foster unclear on his decision.
"Very difficult," Foster admitted. "It was one of the hardest decisions of my life definitely. I've got family in Northern California, my mom's family is from Oakland. It was very hard, coach (Ron) Gould and (Jeff) Tedford, I had a really good official there. I can't say nothing bad about that program ... There was just something here with family and support that kind of put it over (the top)."
Foster just completed one of the most productive seasons in state history. On the season, he finished with over 3,058 yards rushing and a state-record 60 total touchdowns on his way to winning a second consecutive state championship.
For his efforts, he was named the player of the year by the East Valley Tribune, Arizona Republic and ArizonaVarsity.com.