By Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Houston Texans running back Arian Foster tests his Hollywood acting skills on the big screen as a college football player waiting for his name to be called at the annual NFL draft in the film "Draft Day," which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday.
Foster, 27, a three-time Pro Bowl selection in his five-year pro career, is one of the sport's noted underdog success stories, having been passed over in the 2009 draft after playing at the University of Tennessee.
Foster spoke with Reuters alongside his "Draft Day" co-star, Terry Crews, who played briefly in the NFL before turning to acting. Together they talked about the career transition for NFL players once they leave the game, the draft and their beefs with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, now facing pressure from athletes wanting to unionize.
Q: Have you given thought to pursuing acting once your football career concludes?
Foster: I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences in the film industry thus far. So I don't see why, if an opportunity presents itself again, I wouldn't jump on it, but it won't get in the way of my football career because that's first and foremost. That was my dream since I was seven years old.
Q: What are some of the difficulties a football player faces transitioning to another career after his playing days are over?
Crews: You're identified with being a football player and then all of a sudden you're out there in normal life, and it's very, very harsh. ... The guys you went to college with all got into their careers ... but all of sudden now you're starting all over and that guy is your boss.
Q: "Draft Day" shows the eccentric questions teams often ask draft prospects. What peculiar questions did either of you get?
Foster: They asked me, 'Would you rather be a cat or dog?' (laughs) I said, 'I'd rather be a human.'
Crews: It was weird. They were asking me why my coaches didn't like me, my college coaches, because we had a big beef going on with the college stuff. They (NFL teams) thought it was a character flaw, and it just turns out they (my coaches) didn't like me. They were really invasive in your personal life.
Q: Arian, did you have a similar issue at Tennessee?
Foster: Me and my coaches in college butted heads. I kind of butted heads with everything in college because it's a farm club system. I'm just extremely against the NCAA, and that kind of showed throughout my college tenure (and) leading up to the preparations for the draft, and they're (NFL teams) asking me all kinds of questions. I didn't know (my college coaches) were cutting my throat behind the scenes. So they asked me, 'How do your coaches do this?' 'Oh, they'll tell you I'm a good, hard worker, yada, yada.' And little did I know they're saying that I don't work hard, not a good teammate and all this other stuff. It was a great experience either way.
Crews: One problem with the NCAA is the fact that they're not paying you, it makes them (coaches) your fathers, but they're not your fathers, but they act like they're your fathers, and here you are, you're a man.
Foster: And you're paying for your father's salary...
Crews: So they (college coaches) take that kind of seat in your life with no input by you. And so they're telling people as if they're your dad who you are, and you don't even know me. You didn't even raise me. How are you even going to speak characters-wise just because the way I run a football or the way I hit somebody? They're speaking (on) things that they have no idea because they're not paying you. Now if they're paying you, they'd have to figure you out. And that's another thing with the NCAA. That's why I'm not watching (college basketball's) March Madness, all this stuff, people making billions of dollars and these poor guys snapping their legs on national TV, and they don't get a dime. And it's not American. Where in America can you not demand a fair salary or a fair day's pay?
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Ken Wills)