By CHRIS DUNCAN, Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — Arian Foster's mother finally got her fruit basket.
The Texans star running back fulfilled a childhood promise to her on Tuesday after signing a five-year, $43.5 million to stay in Houston.
When Foster was growing up in Albuquerque, N.M., the big-dreaming kid told each family member what he was going to get them when he hit the salary jackpot in pro football.
"I was, like, 7 years old," Foster said at a news conference. "I was going to buy a house, I was going to buy a car."
He had a specific gift in mind for each family member, and told his mother, Bernadette Sizemore, that he'd get her a fruit basket. It became a running gag in the family for years, with relatives always asking Arian when he would make good.
On Tuesday, Sizemore got the fruit basket delivered to her office in Albuquerque, where she's an administrative assistant for African-American students at the University of New Mexico.
"I was just really floored," Sizemore said in a phone interview. "It's funny, it's a joke. But it's also so profound in so many ways."
Foster held back tears as he recalled hardships that his family made when he was young. At one point, Sizemore pawned her wedding ring to buy food.
"I just told myself that I wanted to do something with my life," Foster said before stepping away from a podium to gather his emotions. "I just wanted to do something with my life to make sure that when I have a kid, she never had to worry about the lights being on, she never had to worry about any of that. I didn't care if I had to work three jobs, whatever."
Foster has a 2-year-old daughter, Zeniah, and thanks to the Texans, all the financial security he and his family will ever need.
"It's overwhelming," Sizemore said. "There were a lot of hard times along the way."
The contract also further validates the two-time Pro Bowl selection as one of the NFL's elite running backs.
An undrafted free agent in 2009, Foster made only $525,000 last season, even after leading the league in rushing in 2010 (1,616 yards). His agent, Mike McCartney, said Monday that the Texans told Foster that they needed to see him have another productive year before they talked about an extension.
Foster never considered holding out before the season, and never seemed upset by his contract situation during it. Bothered by a hamstring injury early in the season, he still ran for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2010, Foster has led the NFL in rushing yards per game (97.9), rushing touchdowns (26) and yards from scrimmage (4,061).
"I'm an extreme believer in karma, for the most part," Foster said. "If you take care of this game, it will take care of you. Even if it didn't, something else in my life, I was going to be OK somewhat. I just believe that. I think belief is 90 percent of the battle."
Foster will make $18 million in base salary next season, and the deal includes $20.75 million guaranteed. He acknowledged that the negotiation was "nerve-racking," but says now the pressure is off.
"It's tough for an athlete to go out and play knowing a pending contract is there," he said. "I think playing with that weight off of your shoulders and not having to worry about a long-term contract, you get to play free and you just get to play ball. I'm excited. I can't wait to get back on the field and do what I do best."
The team's next major order of business is deciding the fate of outside linebacker Mario Williams, who will become an unrestricted free agent next week.
Another key unrestricted free agent is center Chris Myers, part of the offensive line that helped Houston finish second in rushing (153 yards per game) and set a franchise record for yards on the ground (2,448).
Myers, who just finished his fourth year in Houston, says he's hopeful that he and the Texans will get a satisfactory deal done.
"Aside from being an uncertain time, it's also a fun time in my career," Myers said before a charity golf event sponsored by former Texans lineman Chester Pitts. "I've said since Day 1 I'd like to be back. On the other end, it's like everyone says, it's a business. I'm very unsure about things right now, I don't know how it's going to play out."
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