Arian Foster is more than an All-Pro running back. He is an entrepreneur, actor, investor, family man, pitchman and health food advocate.
In the future, Foster wants to be even more. "I see myself as an ambassador for hope," he said last week of his long-range goals.
Foster, the NFL's Renaissance Back, has more on his mind than salvaging a lost season for the Houston Texans. He is an investor in a health food company that markets chia seeds. He has upcoming roles in a major motion picture and a New Age documentary. And if you think Foster's fortunes are on the upswing, you can invest in them: In conjunction with the Fantex investment firm, Foster has made himself a commodity.
It can be hard to see how the facets of Foster fit together. Step back from the field, the sound stage, the health food aisle and the trading floor, and a clearer, more holistic picture of the chia-munching, zone-rushing idealist emerges. And Foster is nothing if not holistic. "I want to build as much as I can here, with the platform that I have, to eventually go help as many people as I can," he said.
Sowing the Seeds. Foster has heard a few "grass growing out of your head" jokes since he invested in Health Warrior, makers of chia-based energy bars and products. "Hey, whatever gets people talking about it," he said.
Foster turned down several lucrative food endorsements before investing in a small company that promotes chia seeds and other "super foods." Instead of shilling sandwiches for six or seven figures, he is risking his own capital to promote a health food which was a Central American staple crop for centuries but was strictly a novelty product a decade ago. "It's hard to convey just how unique it is for someone at his talent level, with the range of options he has in front of him, to decide to put his own cash into a company he really believes in," said Shane Emmett, CEO of Health Warrior.
For Foster, turning down snack-food manufacturers was an easy decision. He has dabbled in veganism, and has long been an advocate for both better nutrition and an active lifestyle. "They didn't align with my values and what I wanted to represent, what I wanted to stand for," Foster said of the products he turned down.
Foster's focus on nutrition goes beyond fueling his body for football. For Foster, everything is integrated into a greater whole, and healthy living goes beyond the training table. "Once you start changing your diet, eating healthy and being healthy, everything around you will accelerate toward a positive balance," he said. "It just changes your mindset."
Investor and Investment. While Foster invests his money in chia seeds, you can invest yours in Foster. A company called Fantex plans to sell one million shares of $10 stock in Foster as an "athlete brand." Foster will collect the $10 million (assuming it is raised), and Fantex will collect 20% of Foster's future earnings, which will theoretically provide the value behind Foster's stock.
Per SEC regulations, Foster is not yet allowed to discuss Fantex, and investment experts are highly skeptical of the company, with analyst Felix Salmon going so far as to refer to potential investors in a recent column as "chumps." Criticism of the business plan aside, Salmon believes Foster will soon earn his $10 million, though his opinion of what Foster might do with the money is not high. "If he's typical of most 27-year-old star football players, he's likely to spend most if not all of that money pretty quickly," the market analyst wrote.
Foster, of course, is not typical. "He's never met me," Foster said, brushing off the criticism.
Foster is no stock market expert, but he doesn't throw money around. "I'm an active learner," he said. "I like to dabble. I like to get involved and do my own research." Ventures like Health Warrior, and endorsements of apparel and video games, give Foster earning opportunities which are independent of the NFL.
But Foster's long-term goals involve much more than wealth. "Hopefully, I can impact the lives of many young kids," he said of his post-football plans. "My main goal is to change a lot of what goes on in the inner cities, and also abroad."
Milk of Human Kindness. When not playing football, investing, or endorsing products, Foster finds time for a little acting. His cameos in movies and television often go well beyond the typical football player walk-on.
Foster got to kick some butt on Hawaii Five-0, fighting off some villains in a story about a murderer at large during the NFL Pro Bowl. In addition to a fight scene, Foster dealt with a cop who cornered him with fantasy football questions, as well as a beautiful lady detective who openly admired his charms while watching a surveillance tape. "The wife didn't like that part," Foster joked.
Foster also has a small-but-significant role in Draft Day, the Kevin Costner drama which is scheduled to come out in 2014. Foster plays Ray Jennings, a college running back hoping to be drafted by Costner's Cleveland Browns. Foster shares the screen with Costner, Terry Crews (who plays Foster's father) and other accomplished actors, an experience he found humbling. "I approached it like I was just a rookie," he said. "People respected the fact that I took it seriously."
Foster is not quite an acting rookie. Having played Macbeth in a school production at 13, he is -- by football standards -- a Barrymore. "I was into the arts and the classics," he said. "I took some improv classes in high school. I've always been into poetry, so I read a lot of Shakespeare."
Foster's acting bug dovetails with his value system in Unity, a New Age documentary scheduled for a 2014 release. "What is the ultimate goal of your life?" asks the movie's trailer. "For only one in ten million people, that answer is 'Enlightenment.'" Foster is part of a celebrity lineup of narrators that includes everyone from Jennifer Aniston to Geoffrey Rush, Phil Donohue to Dr. Dre.
Foster and Tony Hawk are the only athletes attached to Unity, which includes a segment about food and nutrition, as well as more metaphysical topics. "It's about a healthy human body, mind and spirit, connecting all three, and living as one," Foster said. "I thought it was great that they were trying to encourage a peaceful society."
Finding the Balance. Movies, chia seeds, and stock deals make it seem like Foster only has one eye on the football field. That's not the case at all. "During the season, I rarely do interviews," he said. "I am strictly focused on ball. It's not like I have business meetings after practice."
Houston's bye week, as well as a hamstring injury, offered Foster the chance to endorse his numerous pursuits. The business ventures and movies are all conducted or filmed in the offseason. By the time they are announced or released (usually during the season, for maximum exposure), Foster is focused exclusively on football and his family. He is conscious of the demands that can pull a star athlete in too many directions. "You have to be selfish with your time," he said. "You can't just give it away."
That selfishness does not extend to Foster's future plans. Nutrition advocacy is just a bridge for him. He speaks of digging wells in Third World villages and providing food to impoverished communities. Texans football is Foster's top priority, but all of his endeavors point to something more important in the future: An opportunity to improve lives, and change mindsets.
Until then, Foster keeps running, on the field and off. "You have a short window as an athlete to impact as many people as you can, to meet the people you can while they are still interested in meeting you," he said. I'm young, I'm 27. I'm going to knock down all the doors that I can with the time that I can."