Looking at a professional athlete, one knows that the individual’s path wasn’t the easiest. It’s a path filled with hard work, dedication, triumph, even defeat and the learned lessons that accompany those failures.
However, everyone gets caught up in the player’s story and overlooks the vital people who stand behind the athlete.
What is it like to be a parent of a professional athlete? How do parents nurture the athletic growth and development of their child, aiding them to become a prevalent athlete? What emotions do parents feel for their child as they progress through high school, unto college and even the pros?
These are all intriguing questions.
In a quest to grasp what it’s like to be a parent of a high-profile athlete, I had the honor and pleasure to interview – and get to know – the parents of Chicago Bears linebacker Mason Foster, William and Margarette.
Here is their story
From an early age Mason fell in love with football. So much so, that he would make his fellow neighborhood kids put on his collection of replica uniforms which consisted of: Miami, San Francisco, Dallas and Oakland. He would tell them to “stand there and try to stop me.”
This is when Foster’s mother, Margarette, knew that her son had natural skill and love for football.
Around the same time, his father noticed that his son had uncanny athletic ability that other kids Foster’s age did not have.
Needless to say, the parents knew their son was athletically gifted from an early age, even before he started kindergarten.
Fast forward to high school…
Foster thrived as a member of the Seaside High School Spartan football team, where his love for the game reached new levels.
Both parents thoroughly enjoyed rooting on their son every Friday night. Margarette would take off at noon every Friday to fry some chicken and prepare a feast and would always arrive early to each game, ready to cheer on her son.
It was her ritual.
Before some games, she would find herself having a hard time sleeping the night before. That is how important Foster’s games were (and still are) to her.
With Mason on the team, Seaside High experienced some of their best years in the program.
Mason took his school to the Central Coast Sectional game and scored several touchdowns on defense and offense as a linebacker and quarterback.
These are the same positions that former Bears player and coach, Ron Rivera, played for Seaside.
He led the team to victory despite playing with a broken hand, proving he was resilient. In fact, this game remains his father’s favorite football memory for that reason alone.
This is the first CCS victory in school history, a triumph that led to the community growing closer together, something Margarette can only describe as “awesome”.
Speaking of community, something people don’t know about Foster is that he’s a homebody. He loves being with family, and to this day remains dedicated to his hometown.
Mason decided to attend the University of Washington, where he continued to make a name for himself.
This is where his father realized that Mason had real potential to one day become an NFL player, which was exciting as a parent.
His mother still gets worked up about one play in particular known as the “Miracle at Montlake.”
Foster took it to the house after Arizona QB Nick Foles’ pass went off of Delashaun Dean’s foot late in the fourth quarter. That play was the deciding factor as the Huskies won 36-33.
When asked to recall her feelings at this moment, Margarette had a simple yet fitting response, “WOO-HOO!”
Another game that sticks in the minds of both parents is a game against the University of California in 2010. Foster tallied 16 tackles while he was aiming to be the nation’s leader in tackles that season.
After a solid collegiate career, Foster and his parents were hopeful that he would be drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft. In the third round, their hope turned into reality as Foster was drafted in the third round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“When Mason was drafted, we immediately felt blessed, amazed and fortunate,” William said.
After signing his rookie contract, Foster’s first purchase was for his mother who supported him from the beginning.
“In need of a car, I was looking at a Versa, but ‘Mase’ said no,” Margarette said, “So I found myself a nice Lexus SUV.”
Even though they’ve attended a countless number of Foster’s games from youth football through college, attending his first professional game was a special moment as parents.
His mother felt overwhelmed with emotions and was beyond excited for both Foster and the family, as collectively they all worked very hard for that day.
William recalls the excitement he felt when he walked into Raymond James Stadium and spotted his son’s pictures in life size figures.
In his first game, Foster was fined for a hit on Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson. Afterwards, Johnson sent Foster a message on Twitter stating that he would pay the fine because he felt it was a clean one.
Being parents of an NFL player, the Fosters never miss a game. They ensure to watch each game as it’s a special moment each Sunday “Mase” takes the field.
Recently, Foster went through what his mother calls a “very dark time.”
During this time, he lost two grandparents. His Grandpa Sack who was his father’s father and Granny Pope on his mother’s side.
William and Margarette grew up five houses apart and their children were very close to their grandparents.
Mason was no exception. He was always calling, visiting, and staying in contact with them.
Additionally, Margarette was diagnosed with and battled esophageal cancer.
To get through this adversity, the Fosters lived by William’s family quote,
“Our strength is in our Unity.”
Last season, Mason battled through some injuries. These injuries aren’t just hard on the player, but on the parents as well.
Each parent felt slightly different and gave unique advice for their son.
“There have been other players with worse injuries that have returned to the game one hundred percent. My advice was to stay positive, stay faithful, and confident in your abilities,” William said.
“It breaks your heart when your child is hurt, no matter what profession they are in,” Margarette said, “I always let Mason know that he is blessed and always will be. Don’t let these injuries define you.”
Foster’s ability to continue on, in spite of difficulty, is a quality that the Fosters recognize and value.
His father is proud because he perseveres and has achieved so much in such a short time. Foster overcomes adversity and won’t back down to obstacles or naysayers.
On the other hand, his mother is proud of his loyalty and dedication to the family. How great of a father he is to his two little boys, the fact that he’s a great person, one that doesn’t speak ill of anyone, and just the fact that he really is a nice young man.
“He is so much like his father… I love it! Just like his dad, Mase is a wonderful husband who is married to his college sweetheart,” Margarette said.
His perseverance has led him to Chicago with aspirations of claiming one of the inside linebacker starting spots.
Why did Foster choose to become a Bear?
According to his parents, he is a people person and the Chicago fans really reached out to him. That coupled with Chicago’s tradition of defense helped him decide.
“Oh my. Who could turn down Chicago? The tradition, the beautiful city, the food and the people… Okay, maybe those are my reasons,” Margarette said.
With the season about to get underway, the Fosters are currently planning their first trip to Soldier Field, and the couple couldn’t be more excited.
The Bears are more a tradition in the family than one would think. Margarette’s brother-in-law, her best friend, and her uncle are all Bears fans. In fact, her uncle has been a season ticket holder since she was a little girl. Needless to say, attending a game at Soldier has been long overdue for Margarette.
The Foster’s football journey is about to embark on a new chapter in the Windy City and these proud parents can’t wait to find out what’s in store for their determined son.
They heard it when he was a preschooler playing football in the neighborhood when Foster yelled, “Try and stop me!”
It’s been over twenty years since that day, and still nothing has stopped “Mase” from pushing the limits and pursuing his dreams.