IOWA CITY – The newest member of the Iowa football program’s coaching staff keeps it real, something that resonated with coach Kirk Ferentz a year before Derrick Foster was hired to coach Hawkeye running backs.
Foster interviewed for the assistant coaching vacancies Iowa had following the 2016 season, jobs that went to Kelton Copeland and Tim Polasek but with the NCAA looking at adding a 10th assistant at that time, Ferentz didn’t have to look far when that possibility became a reality.
Foster, who has spent the past two seasons as the running backs coach at Samford, was the guy.
“He made a great impression on all of us when we talked with him a year ago,’’ Ferentz said. “We’re very confident he’s going to add a lot to our football program. We feel like he will be a really good teacher for our players and be a good recruiter for our program.’’
The 31-year-old native of Goshen, Alabama, has no shortage of enthusiasm for the job.
He talked last week about rushing out to purchase an ice scraper so he could clean off his windshield at 6 a.m. to make certain he was in the office on time in the morning.
Foster’s resume also includes coaching roles at Northwestern State, Tennessee and Valdosta State, where he worked with current Iowa linebackers coach Seth Wallace.
He considers the chance to work on the Iowa staff an opportunity too good to pass up, viewing the stability of the Hawkeye staff as a chance for him to learn as he takes the next step in his career.
“I’m here under the tutelage of one of the longest-tenured coaches in college football and it would be bad of me not to sit here and soak up as much information as I could. Coach Ferentz has been so successful over the years,’’ Foster said.
“I’m looking forward to figuring out how he’s done it the way he’s done it. I look forward to that relationship.’’
He calls the opportunity “a big break for a young man,’’ adding that he is eager to learn as well as teach the players he will be working with once Iowa begins spring practices in March.
Foster worked as a receivers coach at Northwestern State in Louisiana before joining the Samford staff two years ago to coach running backs in a pass-oriented offense.
His backs averaged 96.8 and 79.5 rushing yards per game in 2016 and 2017 as part of an offensive which averaged right at 400 yards per game during 7-5 and 8-4 seasons.
Foster is just getting to know his personnel.
Brief introductions have taken place and he expects to sit down individually with Hawkeye running backs in upcoming weeks before the start of spring drills.
“One of my strengths is being able to relate to players and develop those relationships on and off the field where I can get my guys trust me and go out and play extremely hard for me,’’ Foster said. “Hard working, dedication is what they’re going to get out of me.’’
He expects the same in return.
“I expect them to give us everything they have,’’ Foster said. “Right now, I’m learning the Hawkeye way, the philosophy of how things are done here. I’m learning and growing every day, just like my players.’’
Foster has experience in recruiting in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana, areas that will likely be part of his responsibilities with the Hawkeyes.
Now, as has been the case in his previous stops, his work will begin with establishing relations with prospects.
“I’m genuine,’’ Foster said. “I’m a straight shooter, and I think that I develop that same relationship with the young men I recruit. I think that’s what they believe in here, that we come off as a genuine staff.’’
Foster’s arrival will result in offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz shifting his position responsibilities to tight ends and fullbacks, whose roles have similarities within the structure of the Hawkeye offense.
LeVar Woods, who coached tight ends and special teams last season, will now focus solely on his role as Iowa’s special teams coordinator. That move was announced previously after the NCAA approved letting programs add a 10th assistant starting in January.
Brian Ferentz coached tight ends with the New England Patriots prior to his 2012 arrival at Iowa.
“I think the transition offensively is really good. It’s logical,’’ Ferentz said. “I think we have the pieces in the right places as we move forward to 2018.’’