Meet Jaylan Foster, South Carolina’s accomplished DB prospect

·7 min read

Few defensive backs dominated the stat sheet in 2021 quite like South Carolina’s Jaylan Foster.

Having just been placed on scholarship the year before after walking on in 2017, Foster exploded with one of the best seasons for an SEC defender this season. He tied for fourth in the FBS with 5 interceptions, leading the SEC in that statistic. Now, he looks to carry that momentum into the NFL.

Draft Wire had the chance to speak exclusively with Foster about his work ethic, what his breakout season meant to him, his experience playing wide receiver, and much more.

JI: You exploded from a production standpoint this year, and were named a Walter Camp All-American. What went into this year to have as big of a season as you did?

JF: Yeah, I believe my preparation over the summer – spring and summer leading up to the season – and I wanted to make sure that I put in the work to get the results that I want. That’s what I tried to do, and it obviously helped out. Also, God played a big part, because without Him, I wouldn’t be who I am today. He blessed me with some tremendous athletic ability, [so] the work and God.

JI: You also got named Athlete of the Year by South Carolina this year. What did that mean to you?

JF: That was another big accomplishment for me, just because a lot of monumental people in the football program or athletics at the University of South Carolina, period, has have won those awards, and it meant a lot, just to put my name down the history with a lot of those guys.

JI: You’ve had a long journey getting to where you’re at now. Was there ever any doubt that set in when you were either at Gardner-Webb or walking on to South Carolina, and how did you overcome that?

JF: I wouldn’t say doubt. I just always believed I had the talent and the ability to do it, so I wouldn’t say it doubt. I would just say, just waiting on the right time for things, that was my biggest thing. Wait on the right time, because the time was gonna come; [I] just had to wait on it.

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

JI: Going back to that decision to transfer from Gardner-Webb, what was your mindset heading into that thought process, and what ultimately led to that decision?

JF: Yeah, so my mindset was, I’m a guy who loves to compete, and I always felt like I could compete at the highest level. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen right out of high school, but it happened. That was really my mindset; [I] just want to compete with some of the best guys in the country. I want to take my talents to the NFL, so I knew I had to go compete with so many guys that are gonna be there on Sundays. The decision was easy, to be honest. I tell you the truth, because as soon as I had opportunity, I jumped on it. I jumped on it before I even told my parents what I was gonna do. I kind of told them out there, [the] decision had already been made. That decision was very easy to make.

JI: One thing that stands out on tape is your football IQ, and how quickly you process things on the back end. What are some of the first things you’re looking at pre-snap and post-snap?

JF: Yeah, so pre-snap, at first, I just look at the formation and the ball placement because a lot of times the formation that they’re in is based on where the ball is; it’s gonna tell what was coming. So the next thing I look at, as the ball is snapped…[South Carolina defensive backs coach Torrian] Gray, he had us on a thing where we read the end man on line of scrimmage, either at the top or the tight end, so they can tell if it’s a run or pass. That’s really where my eyes go first and when the is ball snapped, I see. Once I figure out what they’re telling me, then I just scan the field or look at those route concepts or run scheme that I’ve seen on film out of those formations.

JI: How have your meetings with NFL teams gone?

JF: Man, overall, it’s been great. I think anytime you’re in this position, any opportunities that you have are great. A lot of people don’t get these opportunities, so you know that by itself, it’s great. It’s surreal to me; it still hasn’t hit me just yet, that I’m about to be in NFL. I’m taking it day by day, so everything’s been great.

JI: Which defensive backs have you grown up idolizing?

JF: Yeah, so growing up, I actually played receiver, so Dez Bryant was my favorite player growing up, just because I wanted to be a receiver. Once I started transitioning to defensive back home, Vernon Hargreaves, his time in Florida is a guy who I looked at a lot. When you get to the NFL, Tyrann Mathieu is a guy…I love his game. I love his IQ, the game and everything he stands for. Jalen Ramsay, same thing: two dominant guys, All-Pro guys. Budda Baker is another guy I just try to take bits from, and then Kenny Moore. Those are the main guys I watch and try to say, “Hey, look at that stuff” and add it to my game.

(AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

JI: Do you feel like having played high school ball at wide receiver gives you an edge from a ball skills perspective from the rest of the class?

JF: It most definitely makes everything much easier. As soon as I see the formations, I flash back to the kind of route concepts we had out of those formation, and it kind of helps me remember things like that. I would say definitely; it definitely has helped me out a lot, especially the ball-hawking skills: just going up to get the ball, meet it at its highest point and snag it down, and things like that. The receiver part of my game has definitely helped.

JI: How do you like to spend your free time outside of football?

JF: I’ll be in the house. I’m either watching some type of podcast, or I’m just chilling. I don’t really do too much outside. [I] just like being inside with myself a little bit, to the ones that I’m close with, spend my time with those people.

JI: What podcasts are you into currently?

JF: Oh, yes. So I’ve been I’ve been watching The Pivot: Fred Taylor, Channing Crowder and Ryan Clark. I loved Fred and Channing when they were on I Am Athlete, so I just followed them. I watch those guys, Million Dollaz Worth of Game with Gillie and Wallo. Those two podcasts, I’ll be on daily.

JI: Let’s say I’m an NFL general manager. What would I be getting if I drafted you to my team?

JF: First and foremost, a God-fearing man; God is my life. Then, a dog on the field. I just like to compete, no matter who the opponent is, how big, fast, strong whatever it is. I just like to compete. I like to leave everything out there in the field every time. Off the field, the same guy: I like to compete in life. I attack each day, make the best out of it, get 1% better at life.

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