At home with an audience
Molalla's Cory Foster has taken quite the journey over these last few years. His metaphorical vehicle was football.
After graduating from Molalla High School in 2013, Foster journeyed down to Weed, California where he competed with the College of the Siskiyous Eagles football team from 2014 until 2016. While there, the 6 foot, 3 inch, 290-pound lineman thrice earned a Scholar Athlete distinction for the junior college team.
It was all a part of the journey to a bowl game his sophomore season, one he got to start in.
"I used my redshirt at College of the Siskiyous," Foster said. "Then I was fortunate enough to beat the guy out in front of me my redshirt freshman year. I started over him, finished out the season starting there. Then my redshirt sophomore year I started all of those games, went to a bowl game."
After competing with the Eagles, Foster made the transfer to Southern Oregon University in 2017 where he started regularly at right guard. Despite making the trip down before his senior year of high school for a football camp, the NAIA-level university was nowhere on Foster's radar while he played in high school and early on in junior college days.
It didn't matter though when he met up with Southern Oregon University (SOU) head coach Craig Howard, who knew that Foster would join up with the Raiders eventually. Howard led Southern Oregon to a NAIA National Championship in 2014, and passed away in 2017.
"When I took my official visit here, I drove up from Weed," Foster said. "I walked in and met coach Howard. It was a really surreal experience, it was like meeting a legend. He moved the commitment letter in front of me, and told me, 'You don't have to sign this, go take your other visits because I know you're going to come back here.' That stuck with me as really weird, it's like he really knew. It's always that stuck with me."
Foster spent the last two season competing with one of the more successful teams in SOU's recent history. In 2017, the team racked up a 10-0 regular season record, and a pair of wins in the postseason to advance to the NAIA National Championship semifinals.
"It was the first time in the Frontier Conference-era that SOU had (started 10-0)," Foster said. "To be a part of that was really, really special. Going deep into the playoffs, we went to Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and I was really fortunate for all of that to happen.
"I met a lot of awesome, awesome people, some friends for life, coaches that I'll never forget that really helped me get here too."
Taking part in the football season alongside his teammates, going through the grind and working hard during the season has taught Foster a lot of valuable life lessons. The other thing football has instilled in him is a sense of humility.
"The role that I played was that if someone needed to be yelled at for something happening, then put it on us because we can handle it," Foster said. "We're the, 'First to blame, last to fame.' Sometimes that holds true when something goes wrong. If the run game isn't happening, (or) if the quarterback is getting hit a lot, it's going to be on the offensive line. To play that position you really have to not take anything personal from the coaches. You just have to play the game and stay in the right mindset, you can't fly too high or too low, you have to fly right down the middle."
While his time as a college athlete is drawing to a close, Foster (who is studying communication and public speaking) does still hope to stay in front of an audience. It won't be in front of thousands of screaming fans, it will be somewhere he feels he can make a real difference in the lives of animals, people, and the environment.
"I'd really love to get into some kind of wildlife protection," Foster said. "Being an advocate for various species, being an advocate and a voice that these creatures don't have, whether it's talking to schools at assemblies or stuff like that. Just getting out in front of people and talking about wildlife conservation is what really interests me."
"A lot of people get nervous with public speaking, they get the butterflies, and I still get that too," Foster continued. "But I guess it's like football, I can relate it back. When you're out there and you have thousands of fans watching you, it's that same feeling but you're ready to go."
Those ambitions, and the athletic career, all began back home in Molalla. When it seemed like he may not play football in college, Foster put his nose to the grindstone and made it happen. He wants others to know that achieving their dreams is possible, regardless of where you start.
"Growing up in Molalla, a small town, it put everything in perspective," Foster said. "If there's any high school or middle school kids that don't think they can get out of there, they definitely can. I'm not saying Molalla is too small or anything, but you can get to bigger and better things. You just have to work your butt off for it."