Sometimes, good things happen to good people.
Years ago, I would watch the NFL draft from start to finish. Even had a ledger and a pencil in hand copying down the first-round picks — until the Atlanta Falcons picked Steve Broussard over Rodney Hampton.
Last weekend, I opted not to get bombarded with round-the-clock Chris Berman and deliberately stayed away from Saturday’s coverage of the first two rounds. My interest was in the second day and the final five rounds (two rounds on the first day — five on the second. Kinda goes against logic because you should have figured out who you want to spend a high draft pick on already. It’s the guys at the end of the draft you want to argue about whether or not to fork over guaranteed money).
I was curious whether two young men who had finally gotten a chance to show what they can do and who were great kids to boot would get drafted.
Instead, Jayson Foster, the hummingbird-quick former Georgia Southern quarterback, and Gary Guyton, a lean, fast linebacker from Georgia Tech, signed free agent contracts after their names were not called at the podium of the Radio City Music Hall.
Georgia Southern fans — and judging by the turnout at the Eagle Club meeting, there are a bunch of ’em here — know all about Foster. His junior season was, to put it bluntly, wasted, and not by his own doing. When he was given the reins of an offense neither he nor his new coach, Chris Hatcher, had run before, he only set a national rushing record for quarterbacks and won the Walter Payton Award.
Anybody who’s ever dealt with Foster, especially from our side in the media, knows what an engaging and upstanding young man he is. He’s always willing to speak, and he’s always a good quote.
“He is one of the most outstanding people I have ever met,” Hatcher said.
I remember Foster when he played in high school as a small but fast sophomore at Cherokee north of Atlanta. A new head coach was named and he saw what he had and decided with Jayson Foster, Astin Foster and Braxton Foster, the split-back Veer would be a good idea. He was right.
Foster has signed with the Miami Dolphins. It’s not the Dolphins of old. It’s not even the Dolphins of not that long ago. Maybe that’s better for him, because he can play and the Dolphins need someone like Foster who wants to prove himself at that level.
Aside from his last name, Guyton is likely unfamiliar to most of the readers of the Effingham Herald, unless they are either Georgia Tech fans or Bradwell Institute graduates.
You might remember him from his ESPN top play of the week during his freshmen season when he caught a Virginia Tech punt coverage guy unsuspecting and leveled him with a block, almost knocking him out of his cleats.
He wowed the scouts with a 4.47 second time in the 40-yard dash, the fastest of any linebacker coming out for the draft. What I remember is Guyton from his high school days, when I covered his senior year at BI.
In the homecoming game, he ran back a fumble for a touchdown. Later in the game, he noticed there were only 10 defenders on the field and went to cover someone who wasn’t his responsibility and picked off a pass intended for that receiver. He ran that in for a touchdown.
To cap it off, he recovered a fumble at the 1-yard line and ran it back 99 yards for another touchdown. Oh, and he was named homecoming king at halftime.
It was one of his last acts as a high school football player that sticks with me. The Tigers were getting mauled in the first round of the state playoffs by Northside-Warner Robins. The Eagles had a young man on their bench who had no legs. He got into games when they were well out of hand, and this game fit that bill. He played nose tackle.
The Eagles put him in against BI, and when it came for the defense to come off the field, he turned and started to make his way back to the bench. Guyton and Jake Walsh, the Bradwell coach’s son, were coming onto the field.
They went right past their huddle and each of them took a hand from that young man in theirs. They picked him up and carried him back to his bench.
The Northside fans applauded them, and rightly so. It was a spontaneous act of selflessness and class that reaffirms your faith in the younger generation.
Guyton has signed with my favorite NFL team, the New England Patriots — who also have a new punter who used to be represented by one of my closest friends. Small world.
And I guess I’ll be pulling for the Dolphins for 14 out of 16 games.