There's been no shortage of buzz about Reuben Foster in the week since the San Francisco 49ers drafted the linebacker 31st overall. The former Alabama star tore up the SEC for four years and became one of the most talked about prospects leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft.
In our effort to learn more about Foster, we went straight to the man who knows him better than anybody. Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban joined 49ers.com to share unique insight into what San Francisco is getting in their second of two first round picks.
"Reuben is a fantastic player," Saban said. "He's a great competitor. He's very, very instinctive and very athletic. He's a quick-reactor who can play in space. He can cover people. He's a good enough thumper against the run. He has a great burst and closing speed. He's a good blitzer. He's a really, really good player."
Foster's prolific collegiate career included 188 total tackles, 21 tackles for loss and six sacks over the past two seasons. But there's an intangible quality to Foster that had some draft experts calling him one of the better linebacker prospects in recent memory.
"The thing that probably is unique (to Reuben) is that he is a relentless competitor. I mean relentless when he's out there playing. I think that's a difficult standard for a lot of guys to sustain. It seems to be a part of who Reuben is."
Saban prefers not to compare his former players, but he still expects Foster to be among the upper-echelon of Alabama alums who have found success in the NFL.
"We've had a ton of guys who are really good players and went on to have really good NFL careers. I would be surprised if he doesn't fit right in with the top category of those guys."
It's important to note why Foster fell all the way down to the end of the first round. Part of that equation is because of the mixed opinions on his surgically repaired right shoulder. The other factor was a few missteps during the pre-draft process.
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan each had discussions with Saban in the months leading up to the draft. The 49ers clearly loved Foster as a player, but they wanted to make sure they knew exactly what they were investing in.
The coach also explained why San Francisco is the perfect landing spot for the linebacker.
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"I think the important thing for Reuben is that he's a great person. I have a great relationship with him," Saban said. "He's very positive and upbeat. He's got a smile on his face all the time. People gravitate to him.
"He did extremely well in our program, which has a lot of structure. I think an organization that is willing to invest in relationships with players, to help them navigate the future and make good decisions, is the kind of organization that Reuben will thrive in. I think John and Kyle are willing to do that."
According to Saban, Foster has taken full responsibility for why he slipped in the draft, and the coach believes his former pupil will learn from his mistakes. Even so, Saban was sure to remind Foster just how fleeting an NFL career can be.
"Choices and decisions. Choose to do the things that you need to do to be successful and accomplish the goals that you have. Have enough self-discipline to do the right things."
Foster's shoulder is expected to keep him limited throughout the team's offseason program, but he could be full-go by training camp. The 49ers are sure to be patient with their investment, but it's hard not to get excited by the potential of their newest linebacker.