By Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun
6:37 PM EST, December 5, 2013
Chuck Foreman, meet Earl "The Pearl" Monroe.
That's the how-de-do that Foreman, a former NFL star running back, wants to hear.
"It would be a joy to run into Earl some day," he said. Foreman, who's from Frederick, played seven years with the Minnesota Vikings and led them to three Super Bowl appearances in the 1970s with mercurial moves that he borrowed from Monroe, a basketball Hall of Famer.
"I grew up watching him play for the [Baltimore] Bullets," said Foreman, 63. "The Pearl could spin down the court, and the energy he brought to the game was unbelievable."
And he thought: Why not mimic those moves in football?
"Carrying the ball, I would see a place where I wanted to be on the field, and the only way to get there was to spin," Foreman said. "It worked."
He rushed for 5,887 yards and 52 touchdowns in Minnesota, made the Pro Bowl five straight years and so wowed crowds with his jukes and feints that they dubbed him "The Spin Doctor."
A deft receiver — he played end at Frederick High and once caught four touchdown passes against Bel Air — he flourished in the pros. Foreman scored the most touchdowns in the NFL in 1974 and 1976. In 1975, he led the league with 73 receptions; Lydell Mitchell, a comparable all-purpose back who starred with the Colts, and Cleveland Browns wideout Reggie Rucker tied for second with 60.
The Baltimore Sun's Alan Goldstein described Foreman's running style as having "the grace of a ballet dancer and the elusiveness of a greased pig." That was 40 years ago.
"My body doesn't move like that anymore," said Foreman, who lives in Eden Prairie, Minn. "I do play golf and ride my bike, 15 or 20 miles at a time, on trails around here."
The father of three — one son, Jay Foreman, is a former NFL linebacker — Chuck Foreman is now engaged to be married for the first time. His fiancee, he said, drags him to Vikings home games in the cold "when I'd rather sit home and watch on TV. She might even know more about football than I do."
His versatility on the playing field has spilled over into private life. Foreman owns a commercial cleaning company and a memorabilia business. He also works as a substitute teacher at local schools.
"Kids ask for autographs all the time," he said. "But they're usually respectful and wait until after class."
Minnesota's No. 1 draft pick in 1973, he recalled sitting in his apartment at the University of Miami when the Vikings called.
"All I could think of was the game I'd seen where they'd used flamethrowers at Metropolitan Stadium to thaw out the field. I said, 'Damn, it's cold up there.' But going to Minnesota was the best thing that happened, because people treated you with respect. Once, I dropped a $100 bill on the sidewalk and a kid said, 'Hey mister, you dropped your money.'"
Foreman fumbled a lot in college until he played in the Senior Bowl for the South, coached that year by former Colts boss Weeb Ewbank.
"See, I'd always carried the ball loosely and, with so many body parts moving, I sometimes kicked it out of my hand," he said. "Weeb taught me the right way to hold the ball — one point under the armpit and the other in the palm of your hand. From that point on, I was gone."
He racked up 9,106 total yards in the pros before retiring in 1980. Traded to New England that season, he mostly rode the bench but did see action in the only game he played at Memorial Stadium against the Colts. Five seconds remained when Foreman raced onto the field and scored on a 1-yard plunge in the Patriots' 37-21 victory.
Half of Frederick was in the stands whooping it up.
"That town supported me all the way," said Foreman, who'd led his high school to an undefeated football season, a state basketball championship and a state track and field team title. "At 12, I played against the big boys at Mullinix Park, near my home on All Saints Street; that's when I knew I'd arrived.
"The guys I grew up with made me one tough dude."
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