The trajectory of ASU's football program changed when it hired head coach Todd Graham nearly four years ago in December 2011.
Sun Devil football history will also remember another person who chose to come to Tempe four years ago — senior wide receiver D.J. Foster.
Foster was, by all accounts, a well-known named out of Saguaro High School in nearby Scottsdale. The four-star prospect (Rivals) broke nearly every record there was to break in high school, including scoring a then-state-record 60 total touchdowns during his senior season. This mark was only broken last season by fellow Saguaro alum Christian Kirk.
Foster wound up staying home, becoming the inaugural "Hometown Hero" in the Graham era after choosing the Sun Devils over offers from programs such as Notre Dame, Oregon and USC.
The then-18-year-old didn't want to leave home, instead choosing his local school.
"I didn't come here for (Todd Graham)," he said. "It was just for myself as a well. I had family and stuff. I was in a situation where I just wasn't ready to leave.
"I needed to be here for my family and it was just a feeling that I wanted to stay here, even when coach (Dennis) Erickson was here and recruiting me. It was just something about this program that I had a feeling that I really wanted to stay here from day one. Coach Graham has just been a bonus."
Much of Foster's growth has come on the field, but the he felt he had some internal growth to make as well.
"I came here for myself," Foster said. "I just thought this was the best place for me. (As I've gotten older) and matured, just seeing how that does reflect, it's definitely a great thing for the city and people see me as (the "Hometown Hero"). It's a huge honor and blessing.
"I do think it's important to kind of set the example that this is a great university and a great program that is obviously going in the right direction and getting more and more competitive. I think more people need to see that. We're definitely getting in that direction with a lot of the home state kids."
After establishing himself as the benchmark of achievement in Arizona high school football, Foster's ASU career has become the model for future prospects as well.
"Having the relationship where I can just come back and still talk to these guys, it's just unbelievable," Foster said. "They have that respect and they look up to you like that. It's definitely an honor."
Foster's growth as a Sun Devil has matched the growth of his coach in each of their four years.
"He's a competitor and he's a winner," Foster said. "He'll do anything it takes to win, and do it the right way. I think that's really important."
The wide receiver has often relied upon his bond with Mike Norvell, who serves as the deputy head coach and offensive coordinator.
"Me and him just have such a good relationship," Foster said. "I've been with him going on four years now, and just we have such a good understanding when he's trying to coach me up. I'm still learning."
Foster's role is adapting in 2015 as he is transitioning from running back to wide receiver, opening up carries for sophomores Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage. Foster's new position, he says, is one he has not played since his sophomore year in high school.
However, this should not limit the versatility that has made Foster the lone active FBS player with more than 2,000 career rushing and 1,500 career receiving yards.
"You can see just how many playmakers we have on offense," Foster said. We have so much talent, and young talent on the offense. I made that transition to wideout in the slot, but I definitely haven't lost what I learned at running back. When the time comes that they do need me to go in the backfield I'm more than ready to that."
The transition hasn't been an easy one after viewing the Sun Devil offense from a different perspective in his first three seasons.
"It has been hard," Foster said. "You've got to put the pride aside. (Being a senior), none of that matters. I'm a freshman out there during camp. I think you have to think that way, especially for me right now."
The 6-foot, 195-pound receiver said he compares his game to Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate.
"He's a very similar build," he said. "He's not skinny, not big. He kind of has that running back build. I just think he has great ball skills, is a great route runner. As much as I can when I'm in the film room, I just try to watch him."
However, before analyzing Foster's NFL Draft prospects it is important to first look at the accomplishments and legacy he has left at ASU.
Only one player from this year's senior class was a part of Graham's inaugural recruiting class — Foster.
Mike Bercovici redshirted. Jordan Simone walked on at Washington State, transferred to ASU and walked on again before earning a scholarship. Christian Westerman transferred from Auburn. Nick Kelly and Kweishi Brown transferred from junior college. That's just to name a few of the seniors who took unorthodox routes to arrive at their current spot.
Other players from Foster's class left the program or chose to redshirt a year, such as tight end Kody Kohl.
It makes for a senior class that Foster said "should be a mess," but for the exact same reason, isn't.
"Guys come and go, but I think that's what's really special about this team," Foster said. "As many guys have come in and left that we found to have such strong relationships amongst this group right now that we have. It's unbelievable that a lot of guys that didn't play last year that are in starting position now that just how much they've matured and how we're accepting them."
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