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Lions get push from former D-B lineman

Jeff Birchfield • Aug 29, 2018 at 6:59 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Michael Foster will again be on the visiting football team in Johnson City.

Foster, a 6-foot-1, 280-pound senior who attended Dobyns-Bennett High School, is a starting guard for the Mars Hill Lions, who take on East Tennessee State in Saturday's season opener scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Greene Stadium.

With Mars Hill located just 45 minutes from Johnson City in western North Carolina, it's a natural rivalry. It's also an opportunity for Foster to play in front of family and friends.

"I'm pumped about the opportunity to play in front of family and friends back home," Foster said. "Our team is really looking forward to showing the improvement we've made during the offseason."

Mars Hill coach Tim Clifton, who is entering his 25th season at the NCAA Division II institution, says Foster has made a big impact on the team, both as a football player and beyond.

"He has great work habits and he understands the game," Clifton said. "He's a leader by the way he conducts himself on and off the field. He's played both guard and center, and that makes him valuable to our football team."

It was a tough journey for Foster last season. He was replaced as starting center just three games into the season, and the Lions finished 3-7 after losing six of their last seven games. They went 1-6 in the South Atlantic Conference, which included losses to Carson-Newman and Tusculum.

Through it all, his coach said Foster understood the decision and continued to work hard. Clifton said you can tell Foster's love of the game and praised his efforts to improve through film study and practice. In fact, he's often used free time to study film with Lions starting quarterback Austin Brown.

"He's a team guy. Everything is about the team with him," Clifton said. "He's all about trying to make our team better and to get better himself. Our players couldn't ask for a better teammate."

Foster credits his high school coach Graham Clark and current D-B coach Joey Christian for helping him become that kind of team player. He said the No. 1 lesson from the Indians program that has translated to college is to always do his best.

"Coach Clark motivated me every day to work hard," Foster said. "Coach Christian was like a father to me where I played on the offensive line for him. He got me to use every ounce of energy I've got."

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