Foreman changes number, honors dad

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska middle linebacker Jay Foreman is the son of former Minnesota Vikings great Chuck Foreman.
Most Husker fans already know that. But, as the younger Foreman says, no newspaper article about him would be complete without that fact.
The long shadow of Chuck Foreman has followed Jay since he was a little boy growing up in suburban Minneapolis. Sometimes, he says, he didn’t know whether his name was Jay Foreman or Chuck Foreman’s kid.
“It’s something I’ll never be able to get rid of,” Jay said. “Every time I saw my name written when I was in high school, there was always a comma after it and then my dad’s name. I don’t want to say I didn’t like it, but I didn’t know why I couldn’t have my own identity.”
That said, it seems ironic Jay decided to trade in jersey No. 56 for No. 44 — the number Chuck Foreman wore as the Vikings’ All-Pro running back in the 1970s.
No. 44 became available with the graduation of middle linebacker Jon Hesse. Jay Foreman said he requested the change as a way to honor his father, who raised his son as a single parent. Chuck works in marketing in Minneapolis.
“Growing up,” Jay said, “all we had was each other. It was like we were brothers. I owe him a lot. I asked him after the bowl game about wearing 44, and he said he would like it if I did.”
The younger Foreman goes into his junior season as an honors candidate. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder alternated with Hesse at middle linebacker last season after starting every game at strong side linebacker in 1995.
Foreman’s 43 tackles ranked seventh on the team last season. He made the highlight shows by returning an interception 21 yards for the Huskers’ first touchdown in the 17-12 victory over fifth-ranked Colorado. He also intercepted a pass to set up a TD in the 73-21 romp over Oklahoma.
“He has the experience of making plays in big ballgames,” linebackers coach Craig Bohl said. “If you look at the Colorado game, I would have to say his interception was a turning point in the game.”
Foreman said he feels at home as a middle linebacker. A year ago, he was just learning the position. The coaching staff moved him inside to make room for the faster Jamel Williams at strong side linebacker.
In addition to playing middle linebacker last season, he saw spot duty at the weak side and strong side spots.
“There was plenty of uncertainty,” Foreman said. “But a year later, I’d say it has worked out really well for me.”
When Foreman was coming out of Eden Prairie High School, the home-state Minnesota Gophers showed no interest in him. Foreman was an all-stater as a senior after rushing for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns and making 43 tackles and two interceptions as a defensive back.
Chicago recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said of Foreman in 1994: “I thought he was an overrated player, not anything special. He made a name for himself because of his dad.”
Dave Skrien, Minnesota’s recruiting coordinator at the time, said the Gophers shied away because of a 4.89-second 40-yard dash Foreman ran at their camp. Skrien also said the coaching staff didn’t project Foreman to play any position other than running back, adding that Foreman wasn’t as good as any of the backs the Gophers were trying to recruit.
Foreman has enjoyed the opportunity to prove disbelievers wrong.
“The Gophers, to be quite blunt, don’t know what they are doing,” Foreman said this week. “Miami, Michigan and Nebraska offered me a scholarship to play defense, but not the Gophers.
“I don’t understand how they said I couldn’t play at their university, where, if they win three games a year, it’s like a national championship for us. And then that dude, Lemming, said what he said, and I know for a fact that he never saw me play. I think about those things every day.”
Bohl said Foreman doesn’t have to worry about his identity any longer at Nebraska.
“Around here,” Bohl said, “everybody looks at him as Jay Foreman, a very good football player.”