Virgen: Foster leads special camp

DeShaun Foster had a rough start to a seven-year career in the NFL. The UCLA standout running back, who starred at Tustin High, suffered a season-ending knee injury during the preseason in 2002.

Football has been a big part of Foster's life. It's taught him "everything" he needs to know he says. That also showed while in the NFL.

Foster came back after his disastrous rookie year to help provide the Panthers with what he calls the highlight of his pro career. He was instrumental during Carolina's run to the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.

Nowadays, Foster, a UCLA graduate assistant coach, wants to help children with special needs learn about the game and apply it to their lives.

Foster is hosting the third annual Challenger Flag Football Camp Saturday at Edison High. The program, which also features a cheerleader camp, is offered to the young athletes (ages 5 to 21) with special needs in Huntington Beach and surrounding communities. The event is sponsored by the Orange Empire Conference, that also includes Costa Mesa Pop Warner and HB.

The camp is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and costs $10 per child, which includes a T-shirt, a photo session and lunch.

"This was something my mom [Cheryl] did and I followed her lead," Foster said. "It's just a good event, to work with kids with special needs. You come out and see their smiles on their faces. They are so excited, and that is just so exciting to me. I like to bring my friends out. They just enjoy the kids, too."

Foster says he enjoys teaching and coaching the game that has taught him so much and provided him with a season that ended in the Super Bowl. Football can provide several qualities for kids and their families who deal with daily challenges.

The game has certainly meant a great deal to Foster.

Panthers fans usually refer to Foster's gritty, tackle-breaking one-yard touchdown run during the 2003 NFC Championship win against the Eagles as the stuff of legend.

The Super Bowl that season was mostly known for its controversial halftime show. You know the one. It resulted with the catchphrase, "wardrobe malfunction," after Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performed.

However the game turned out to be one of the most thrilling Super Bowls ever played, as the Patriots won on a field goal with four seconds left, 32-29, after a fourth quarter that featured five touchdowns.

Foster scored on a dazzling 33-yard TD run that ended with a dive into the end zone. He stretched the ball over the pylon while in midair, which also proved to be a memorable highlight.

"Football has really taught me everyhthing," Foster said. "It's taught me how do be organized, how to be on time, how to be a real man."

Foster, 34, retired from the NFL when he was 29. He was a graduate assistant with UCLA last fall when he earned a degree in history.

He quickly discovered a love for coaching, especially while learning under Coach Jim Mora.

It's easy to see that Foster is very excited for the upcoming season to learn more from Mora and coaching the Bruins.

"It's really different being on the other side," Foster said. "Coach Mora is great. He just really prepares the players. It's just fun to see. Coaching is something I want to do."

Teaching the game and showing that it can be fun is what Foster will be doing on Saturday.

Some of the camp's sessions will consist of running, throwing, receiving, defense and kicking.

The cheerleaders, also for kids with special needs, will learn about a cheer routine, a cheer dance and a cheer pep rally.

They'll have plenty to cheer about on Saturday.

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