NFL Draft season does much more than just add the future of every franchise including the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. It’s also the time of year when former college teammates have the chance to reunite.
That said: Could there be a South Carolina Gamecocks reunion on the Rams‘ defense during the weekend of April 29?
Last draft, the Rams took linebacker Ernest Jones at the No. 103 spot of the third round. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder ended up emerging as the top rookie of the Rams’ 2021 class: Starting in seven games, producing 61 tackles (36 solo), swatting down four passes and snatching two interceptions. He also delivered some game-altering moments during Super Bowl 56:
Now, in an exclusive interview with Heavy, another Gamecocks standout has envisioned himself thriving in the same scheme that elevated Jones to a solid start to his NFL career.
‘I Believe I can Shine in That Defense’
Defensive back Jaylan Foster told Heavy on Tuesday, April 5 that he believes his own versatility and skill set makes him a fit for defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and the Rams’ exotic scheme.
“That would be a dream come true just looking at playing with those guys,” Foster said. He especially zeroed in on the three All-Pros who comprise the Rams’ 2022 defense: Defensive lineman Aaron Donald, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and the newcomer at linebacker Bobby Wagner.
“They’re playing at a hall of fame level right now in their career. And playing with those guys will be a blessing,” Foster said.
Again, he’s already familiar with one member of that defense in Jones as the inside ‘backer spent three seasons in Columbia, South Carolina from 2018 to 2020 and collected 199 total tackles including 10.5 for a loss during his collegiate years.
“And then you have the fit,” Foster added. “Again, I’m very versatile so it helps me fit in their defense. Jalen Ramsey already plays inside and outside, then a couple of their guys play nickel and safety. I feel like I can do it at that level too. I believe I can shine in that defense a lot.”
There’s also an opening. The Rams lost Darious Williams via free agency to the Jaguars.
Foster Delivered Breakout Final Campaign Following Walk-On Journey
Foster wasn’t always a Gamecock. He began his college career as an under-recruited two-star prospect by 247Sports who ended up at Gardner-Webb University.
He then made the bold move to not only transfer to the Southeastern Conference program following the 2016 season, but accept the fact that he had to walk-on. And while playing on the scout team, he went toe-to-toe against a future division rival of the Rams: San Francisco 49ers All-Pro Deebo Samuel.
“I was on scout team for a couple of years so I was always going against Deebo every day in practice,” Foster said. “I probably got on his nerves a lot because on the scout team, I was really supposed to just practice. But week in and week out, being able to go against a guy like that, I may have treated it like practice but it helped me develop my mindset in a game.”
Turns out those battles against Samuel eventually helped prepare him for two heralded receiver prospects entering this same draft class from the same SEC division of South Carolina: Velus Jones of Tennessee and Wan’Dale Robinson of Kentucky.
“It was great going against those guys. I was always looking forward to the challenge of going against those guys every week just knowing that you’re going to have a top dog on the opposing side and that you’ll have to bring your ‘A’ game,” Foster said. “That helped me tremendously with my mindset. My mindset was you can’t slack against those guys and if you slack, it’s a touchdown. That made me pick my game up a lot.”
Of the two, Robinson ended up having one of his worst yardage days going against Foster and South Carolina: Just 65 yards while still escaping with the 16-10 win on September 25.
Foster left the Palmetto State turning in 5 interceptions — which at one point in November 2021 led the nation.
Here’s why he’s a believer he can add to the Rams’ defensive versatility: He shows here versus Troy University that he can force fumbles when called to blitz:
Foster hasn’t heard his name attached to the first round or second. But he doesn’t give into mock projections, saying “I try to stay away from that as much as I can. Sometimes it’s hard because of social media. I can’t control what people think about where I’m going. Only God knows. I can’t worry about that.”
He tells Heavy he’s heard from the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and recently, the Los Angeles Chargers. But while there’s the dream scenario of suiting up for the champs, Foster says he’s open to anything.
“I just want to go to a team and help them win. I want to be the best teammate I can and help them win.”