Pro Player Insider’s Theresa Villano chatted with Mrs. Cheryl Foster, NFL Mom to former NFL running back DeShaun Foster, as a tribute to mothers on Mother’s Day. Foster has always taken motherhood very seriously and brings a lot of perspective to mothering not only a pro, but any child.
Pro Player Insiders: We want to dive right into Mother’s Day questions…
PPI: What does being a mother mean to you?
Cheryl Foster: It means everything. The reason why I say that is it’s just that immediate bond from the moment you and your baby eyes connect with one another. When you first hold your baby you feel that unconditional love. It’s like an instant connection right away. Then, watching your kid grow up and develop into their own person and become the person they are today is priceless.
PPI: Does being the mom of an NFL player change that mentality at all?
C.F.: Absolutely not. I have just been able to see his dream come true. As far as me as a parent, I enjoyed watching him play. All moms want their kids to succeed. We are there to support him. It is exciting to be able to see your son do something that he’s worked so hard for and watch everything come full circle.
PPI: What are names & ages of your children? Tell us a couple words to describe each of them.
C.F.: We have DeShaun. He’s 33. I would describe him as more of a laid back type person, also very charismatic, giving, and a very hard worker. Then I have my daughter, Chanel. She’s 25 years old, soon to be 26 next month. I can describe her as a go getter. She’s the type of person if you dangle something out in front of her and if it’s something she wants to do, she’s going to go after it. They’re both very hard workers.
PPI: What are DeShaun and your daughter currently up to?
C.F.: Right now, DeShaun is at UCLA. He’s going to school and he’s also coaching there. My daughter, Chanel, is working for the Department of Education. She’s an advocate for at risk youth and a photographer.
PPI: What has been one of your fondest memories that made you realize the amazing gift of motherhood? Or an “ah ha” moment where you felt, “Wow, being a mom is so gratifying”?
C.F.: The “ah ha” moment for me is when you’re parenting your kids, there are certain things you say to them. You try to give them words to live by. One instance was when my son was a writer in high school for our local newspaper. I was reading one of his articles and there was a quote in reference to something I had said to him. It was then I realized; he got it. I have always stressed to my kids the importance of owning who they are and being givers to people that are less fortunate. My daughter really took this to heart. She actually got an award for having the most community service hours. To me, that was incredible, because that meant she took the initiative to go out there to be of help to someone They are both doing the things and living the example I and God set forth for them.
PPI: You were saying when you hear your child repeat what you say, it’s a great feeling. I call those Momilies. Momilies are sayings mothers say to their kids all the time. Phrases that are engrained into their children’s’ heads. Like my mom would always say, “You get flies with honey, not vinegar.” What are some sayings you always say/said to your kids like a broken record?
C.F.: The one thing that really stuck with me was, when he was in high school, he broke all these records and was considered one of the top athletes in the nation. I used to always remind him, “This is not about you. It’s a team sport.” You always give credit to your team. In an article in The Tustin Weekly he stated this exact quote. He wanted to give credit to the guys who were out there blocking for him and the rest of his teammates. When someone asked him the question of what its like being a running back and being in the spotlight, he stated, “This is not about me. This is about the team.” That’s something I used to always say to him. I would also tell him, “Don’t ever let this game define who you are. You define the game of football.” For him to be able to quote some of those things, I knew he was paying attention.
PPI: How has your own mother influenced your life and how you raised DeShaun and Chanel?
C.F.: She was and still is a great influence in my life and my kids’ lives. I can remember when we were younger, there are seven of us, my mom gave us all journals, even the ones who couldn’t read or write. She always told us, “No matter what, I’m going to make mistakes as a parent. I’m giving you these journals to write your thoughts down. You don’t have to worry about me reading your journals. If there’s anything you need to discuss with me, just write it down and you can bring it to me.” That’s one thing that stuck with me. Also, when we each graduated from high school, she gave us this one particular book called, Sell Like an Ace, Live Like a King. At one point, I didn’t understand why, so I asked. She said no matter what you do in life, you will always be selling yourself. I’m like, hmmm interesting. Some of those things she did for me and my siblings prepared us for what was going to happen next in our lives. That’s something I appreciated very much as her daughter to this day.
PPI: Even though your son played a masculine sport, how, as his mother, have you influenced his success?
C.F.: I ran track and I was also a cheerleader. I would tell him no matter what you do in life, you will always be competing. I didn’t quite look at it as a masculine sport. I just looked at it as something he happened to be good at. It was something that he wanted to do and something he excelled at. My job, I felt, was to be there to support him no matter what he was involved in. As a parent you should be there to nurture and support them all the way. It has never been about me, its about God our family. I’m there to support my kids 1000 percent.
PPI: What has been a memorable Mother’s Day for you? Has there been an amazing gift your children have given you?
C.F.: Everyday is Mother’s Day for me. I don’t get caught up in all the materials things. I can remember this one card my kids gave to me. My son actually gave me this card and he thanked me for everything I did for him. He said, “One thing I want you to know is you’ll always be the number one girl in my life.” That was it. That did it for me.
PPI: You are big part of the NFL moms association. Tell me a little about that organization.
C.F.: The organization is there to support our sons on and off the field. We also give back to the community. We feel it’s so important for us to be there for others and to support the community at large.
PPI: What are some of the challenges of being the mom of a NFL player?
C.F.: I think some of the challenges are certain family situations, because as you know, when your son becomes this athlete, people kind of come out of the woodwork. People want things. Also hearing people in the stands say things about your kid might make you want to respond but you know you can’t respond. Another challenge for me was watching my son get hit over and over again, because of his position as running back. I used to cover my face. Sometimes I would just have to get up and walk out of the stadium. I also think another challenge for some moms is being able to recognize the NFL as a job. There is a beginning and an end. You are a lot younger than most professionals when you retire. It’s not going to last forever. It’s up to us to prepare our sons for life after football. Which my husband and I started preparing our sons exit from football when he signed his first contract. We wanted to make sure that he would be financially fit once he stopped playing. I think those are the challenges, just making sure they’re an all around person on and off the field.
PPI: Are there any NFL Moms you have gotten close to through this organization?
C.F.: I respect them all, and they all have unique ways in contributing to the organization. I’m friendly with everyone.
PPI: On a different note you’re an NFL mom in the community. You are very involved in your charities. Which is closest to your heart?
C.F.: The one that’s closest to my heart is my son’s foundation. This is where we actually give scholarships to kids for college, and financial support to at-risk-youth. We also hold football camps. Last year we held our first kids with special needs football camp. That was very special to me. Previously, when we would have our annual camps, my son would mention that some of the kids had special needs siblings. He came to me one day and said, “Don’t you think it would be nice if we can actually do a football camp for special need kids?” We did our researched to see if there was any other camps out there and it just so happened there weren’t any. We teamed up with a friend and last year for our first special needs camp. I think there were over 200 kids including cheerleaders and players. My son taught them the fundamentals of the game as well as team spirit. At the ends of the day, the children were so happy they did not want to leave. The kids were crying. The moms were crying. They couldn’t thank us enough for what we did for their children. A lot of times people consider them the forgotten kids, but we wanted people to know they are not forgotten. The next camp will be in August 2013.
C.F. (continued): I am also the Director of the The Legacy Leadership Project (LLP). It involves incoming high school seniors and Pro Football Hall of Fame members who volunteer their time mentoring football players. The PFHOF players encourage chosen students to finish high school, help them to build the leadership skills to play at the college level, and help them develop skills to make positive life choices on and off the field. This mentoring relationship includes: a day of mentoring at Newport Sports Museum in Newport Beach, a visit to Canton, Ohio with the Hall of Fame mentors during the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremonies. It’s neat because in Canton the student athletes and their coaches get exclusive access to events to meet members of the PFHOF. LLP has seen great success especially because of its ongoing support and approval by the NCAA, The Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the NFL.
PPI: Any advice for Mothers wanting to raise successful children?
C.F.: My advice is just be a parent and not a friend. It’s also not up to the Teachers to parent your child. You set the example and then be the example. Those are the things we did for our kids. If there was something they were involved in, we were there for them no matter what. If they went to practice, we went to practice. If they had games, we were there. We put our lives on hold for them, whatever they were involved in — sports, academics, etc. we encouraged and supported. Parents need to realize you have to get to know your kids. Turn the TV off and interact with your child. Play games with your kids. Take them to the park. Just be there… be a parent.
C.F.: Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Mother’s Day is a great way to welcome our NFL moms feature to Pro Players Insiders. With Mrs. Foster as the lead Insider, stay tuned for more community adventures and insights with the moms that make up the NFL.
Follow @Theresa_ppi @PlayerInsiders for more under the helmet coverage.
–Jennifer Korzsun Contributed to this article
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