The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.
Reggie Foster was an All-Moore League quarterback at Millikan in 2003 when he had a son and named him Kaleb.
Almost two decades later, Kaleb Foster is the star running back for Lakewood and has helped carry the Lancers to the CIF Southern Section Division 8 championship game tonight.
“Kaleb has been there throughout my journey like in the locker rooms and on the field,” Reggie Foster said. “He’s always been around football, even when I went to Colorado and came home to coach and train players, he would even hop in the drills as a baby at four or five years old.”
The 5’10” 195-pound Foster has a unique running style that mixes a hard-nosed approach with a natural shiftiness.
“He’s special,” said Lakewood coach Justin Utupo, who compared Foster to some of the great running backs he played with as a Lancer himself. “(Foster) can run downhill and run you over but he can also make you miss. He’s great catching the ball out of the backfield as well. He can do it all for us. We’re fortunate to have him.”
As Foster goes, so goes Lakewood. The senior has come on strong in the second half of the season, and especially in the second half of games. In the last eight games, he’s rushed for 807 yards and all 10 of his touchdowns on 9.1 carries. Foster is averaging 7.8 yards per carry this season.
“I always run the ball to score, it just so happens that I’m getting first downs and running the clock,” Foster said.
CLICK HERE and go to 5:23 of the video highlight to see a montage of Foster clinching a victory.
Foster played soccer, baseball and basketball before starting tackle football at 11, but Reggie Foster said he never cared what sport his son played.
“I trained him for life in general and to be a good athlete,” Reggie Foster said. “But I saw something before he started to play football, just how quick he was with his feet. I knew if he decided to play football he’d have the fundamentals to have that quickness.”
That turned out to be the case and Foster thrived at linebacker and running back for multiple Pop Warner teams before his mom sent him to Lakewood High School— much to his chagrin.
“Honestly, yes I was frustrated,” Foster said.
As a sophomore, Foster transferred to Lawndale for a chance to play running back. When things didn’t work out there and he moved back to the Long Beach area, Utupo’s new coaching staff was waiting for him to return to Lakewood.
“I challenged myself (by leaving Lakewood to play running back) and I had something to prove to myself... I had to prove that I’m capable of being a starting running back,” Foster said. “When I got back to Lakewood I saw how (the new coaches) treated my teammates. It was like a big family here. They welcomed me.”
A big reason for that acceptance is how Foster carries himself off the field.
“He’s a good kid with a big heart who is honest and respectful,” Reggie Foster said of his son. “I love the relationship he has with my mom. He checks in with her and his little cousins… the energy he gives off is really genuine.”
Foster left Lakewood before the COVID shutdowns, so he returned looking very different.
“(The break) helped me because we weren’t coming to school so with that time to myself I worked on my craft instead of just sitting around,” Foster said. “I didn’t hit the weights as much as I wish I would’ve, but I trained at the beach and Signal Hill. It was a lot of running to get my speed up. In ninth grade I was 230 pounds, and right now I’m 195.”
Because of team needs, Foster started this season playing both sides of the ball as a starting linebacker, but that changed in August when the pads went on.
“Once we saw what he could do with the ball in his hands we knew he needed to get the majority of the carries,” Utupo said. “Every time he touches the ball, everyone, even the coaches on the sideline, we’re all excited to see what he’s going to do next. He’s able to just make plays on his own. He’s outrunning the secondary as well. He’s showing off his speed and athleticism.”
Reggie Foster, who has also tried to get Kaleb into yoga to work on balance, said he loves his son’s explosiveness with the ball in his hands.
“He has a great ability to react and see the field, and he doesn’t go down easily,” he added.
“I run angry but I run smart too,” said Foster, who models his running style after greats like Marshawn Lynch. “I don’t run to get myself hurt. I’m shifty and can even hurdle, but I can for sure run people over. With my size, I’d rather juke you than run you over. When they see me they don’t expect me to be shifty. I like to surprise them.”
Foster knows what it takes to be a good running back, and he also knows he can’t do it all by himself. The offensive line of Michael Salinas, Jay Tauala-Harris, Luis Marrero, Isaac Pascual and Abraham Sanchez have been improving every week.
“You have to be a leader to the offensive line and have good relations with the guys who are blocking for you,” Foster said. “Our confidence has been skyrocketing because we’re communicating on the field and being very physical.”
“It’s all about trust and we trust our guys like Kaleb and Zion (Smith) because we’ve seen them take advantage of our physicality up front,” Salinas said. “We know they’re going to make the play.”
Foster doesn’t have any scholarship offers or solid plans for next year after graduation, but he knows more good playoff performances will only raise his stock.