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Mitch Vingle: One North-South player snagged by a Bowden

KENNY KEMP | Gazette
Parkersburg’s Kyle Foster punts during North All-Stars practice Thursday morning.

If you read this column often you know there’s one thing I rarely write about.

A punter.

No disrespect intended (which is my favorite line when disrespecting), but I can recall only a couple such subjects: a kid named Miles Montgomery at University High in Morgantown and Todd Sauerbrun at WVU. (I have no earthly clue why I wrote of the first except that he was a good kid.)

Anyway, add Kyle Foster to the list.

If you’re looking for the one player in this Saturday’s North-South Classic with an FBS scholarship, it’s the Parkersburg High product. Foster is headed to the Akron Zips.

And he’s kind of a neat story.

First of all, understand he’s the son of Rex Foster, who was a manager for WVU basketball teams when Gale Catlett coached and a director of the Mountaineer Athletic Club.

“He sent me to a kicking camp, so I guess I owe him respect for that,” Kyle Foster said. “He sent me to a kicking camp in fourth grade. He said there are scholarships available at the next level if that’s what you want to do. He has a lot of connections through football, knows a lot of people, so he helped me a lot through this process.”

The punter smiled.

“I always used to kick a ball around in the house, so I guess I owe my mom for that,” he said.

On Thursday, he was kicking a ball around UC Stadium in the rain while his North team practiced on Laidley Field.

“I don’t think a lot of true punters or kickers get invited down here, but with what I’m going to do at the next level, I think they looked at me,” Foster said. “When [North] Coach [Billy] Haddox called, I was as excited as can be to come play and represent Parkersburg.”

Foster said he began punting in earnest in seventh grade when his middle school coach had an open tryout.

“From there, I got to freshman football at the high school,” he said. “Coach [Don] Reeves wanted me to come up and punt that year — and I ended up punting four years at PHS. I just kind of took over.”

Foster averaged 43 yards in net punting last season, during which the recruiting process was in full swing.

“There’s a lot more that goes into it than you might think,” Foster said. “It’s not just because you can kick a ball. A lot of times [college coaches] come to games and watch quarterbacks and receivers, but, as a punter, you really have to send film and make the contacts because they’re probably not going to find you. You more or less have to find them.

“Coach Reeves did a lot of that for me. I have the utmost respect for him.”

Foster found interest from schools in many corners.

“I talked to a lot of different people,” said the punter. “On signing day and after, when I decided on Akron, I had Kansas State and Arizona State as teams I talked to a lot, as well as Marshall. But I really wanted to be close to home. Plus, I wanted that West Virginia connection. With Coach [Terry] Bowden at Akron, I definitely will feel that.”

Ah yes, that West Virginia connection. Bowden’s father Bobby coached in Morgantown and Terry attended WVU.

“I talked to [Terry] and Coach Jeff Bowden, his brother, who is our special-teams coach over there,” Foster said. “Coach Bowden sent me a letter talking about the West Virginia connection and getting that in Akron. There are two Morgantown boys [Christian Allen and Jeff Allen] over there playing and Ryan Nehlen is a new graduate assistant from WVU. So a lot of West Virginia connections.”

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Terry Bowden was in Parkersburg last week speaking to the Big Reds.

“I got to go in,” Foster said. “It was kind of cool. My new coach was in there talking to my old coach, talking about what he’s trying to bring to Akron football.”

If you’re wondering, yes, Foster did talk to WVU’s Dana Holgorsen.

“I talked to him a couple times,” said the punter. “I talked to Coach [Joe] DeForest a couple times. They more or less wanted me to walk on. I wasn’t trying to be greedy or anything, but I wanted to go where the scholarship was going to be and where I had the most opportunity to play. I’ve grown up a WVU fan my whole life and I’ll still be a supporter.”

The twist to the story is Foster won’t enter Akron’s program as the starting punter, despite the scholarship. That’s a rarity.

“They have a kid there who was going to go into the NFL draft,” Foster said of Zach Paul. “When I first met him in December, he had intentions to go to the NFL draft. Then he decided to come back for his senior year. He was [third-team] All-MAC, so he’s pretty good.”

That doesn’t mean, however, Foster will be red-shirted.

“They want to use me as a place-holder for sure,” Foster said. “They’ve seen my film. That’s one thing that got me recruited more so than punting, believe it or not. They saw my ability to be a pretty decent place-holder. I did that for four years at PHS too.

“They definitely want to use me as that, as well as for some onside-kicks. That’s what I did at PHS, so we’ll see what happens.”

So far, so good in that regard. Foster found his school. He found his scholarship. And he found his Mountain State connection.

“I wanted to have that West Virginia tie-in and Coach Bowden definitely gives me that,” Foster said. “I think he’s got that program going in the right direction. He has some top quality teams on the schedule this coming year like Pitt and Penn State. We play Marshall at home. It should be fun.”

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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