Fields, Foster share unbreakable bond

May. 07, 2014 @ 11:21 PM

Whether or not they get drafted is inconsequential to Carlos Fields and Tazmon Foster.

Pick number 256?

Fields will take that.

“If I’m Mr. Irrelevant,” said Fields, “I’m going to jump, run outside and just yell one loud yell.”

Fields and Foster, friends since sixth grade and 2009 Northern Vance graduates, each expect to join NFL teams as free agents even if their names aren’t called in the draft, which starts tonight and concludes Saturday.

A common sentiment is that not being selected rather than being taken in a later round can actually be advantageous; then, a player can choose his destination.

Fields, especially, may not have that luxury if he slips that far down the list of picks. The two-time All-American and CIAA Defensive Player of the Year at Winston-Salem State is rated as the 20th best outside linebacker prospect by CBSsports.com.

To put that in perspective, Fields is ranked one spot behind Prince Shembo of Notre Dame and one ahead of East Carolina’s Derrell Johnson.

“I’ve heard people say I can get drafted,” said Fields. “I don’t know. It really doesn’t matter to me as long as I get a shot.”

Foster, a 5-foot-10, 220-pound linebacker, faces a different challenge than his 6-foot-1, 240-pound buddy; he’s been proving since high school that he isn’t too undersized to play his preferred position.

Foster set N.C. Central’s single-season record in tackles in 2013 in his second season after transferring from Division III N.C. Wesleyan.

“I know I can play football,” said Foster. “I just need somebody to take a chance on me.”

Foster’s unlikely path

Fields and Foster were also basketball standouts at Northern for veteran head coach Wilton Baskett.

Fields redshirted at Winston-Salem State before helping lead the Rams to consecutive Division II semifinal appearances, including a loss to Valdosta State in the 2012 national championship game.

Foster’s road was different. His SAT scores weren’t up to standard, so Baskett helped him land a spot on the basketball team at Cape Fear Community College.

Foster got his grades up at Cape Fear, paving the way for him to continue his academic progress at Wesleyan.

“Pray and stay focused,” said Foster. “If you stay focused and believe in God, anything is possible.”

Positive vibes

Something else has been vital to the success of Foster and Fields.

Fields said when he returns to Northern, he is disappointed when walking the halls and seeing athletic potential not being realized by students that don’t go out for the football team for reasons Fields can’t quite grasp.

Fields and Foster belong to a tight-knit group of Northern grads, rolling about 10 deep, that are determined to find success.

“It’s just all about who you hang around,” said Fields. “Everybody that we hang around is successful.”

“Surround yourself with positive people,” added Foster. “You can’t surround yourself with negativity.”

Fields and Foster played football at Northern under Cedric Crudup, standing out as linebackers as well as being relied upon on offense and special teams.

Eric Watkins, the Vikings’ current head coach, coached against the standouts in middle school.

“For both of those kids to excel the way they have on the college level, coming from Vance County, that sends a great message to our kids,” said Watkins.

If one or both do get their names called, they’ll be the first Vance County player drafted since Northern’s Jason Brown was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in 2005.

Still grinding

Fields and Foster have signed with different agents and have been training separately in Atlanta.

Foster hasn’t visited any teams although he said he got a phone call on Monday that lifted his spirits. Fields has worked out with the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs.

Training in Atlanta opened both players’ eyes. Fields was working alongside players like Boston College running back Andre Williams, a Heisman Trophy finalist. Foster was in the same facility as Denver Broncos receiver and former Georgia Tech star Demaryius Thomas.

Coming from smaller colleges, Fields and Foster learned not to ask for much. No nutritionists, extra cleats or massages.

Massages?

“We go out and play,” said Foster. “We get ice buckets.”

“When we do get issued shorts, we have to give them back,” said Fields. “We’ve been grinding.”

That’s a work ethic born on the gridirons of Vance County — at Northern and Eaton-Johnson Middle School — and as far back as rec league when the duo suited up for the Middleburg Tigers.

“Now it’s 2014 and we could possibly get drafted in the NFL,” said Fields. “It’s been a crazy ride.”

Maybe the ride continues with either Fields or Foster getting drafted. Maybe both will or maybe it’s neither.

Regardless, the draft results won’t affect their friendship.

“No matter if he goes or I go, there’s not going to be jealousy,” said Foster. “We’re always going to be together. We really are brothers.”

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.