In November of 2015, I was on the Texas sideline during the visiting Longhorns game against West Virginia, working on a story on Mountaineer legend Major Harris. Despite their 38-20 loss in what was another lost season for coach Charlie Strong's crew, one player that I could not keep my eyes off was their sophomore running back D'Onta Foreman.
He didn't make any noise as a true freshman the year prior, but I circled his name as a player to pay attention to when he rushed for 117 yards on only nine carries in Texas' surprising 24-17 win over Oklahoma a few weeks prior. The week before playing West Virginia, he ran the ball 12 times for 157 yards in his team's 59-20 spanking of Kansas.
Against the Mountaineers on that beautiful fall afternoon, Foreman rushed for 147 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown.
During this past season, I made sure to watch Texas play whenever the chance availed because he seemed like a player on the rise. And he didn't disappoint. After rushing for a total of 754 yards as a sophomore and a freshman, Foreman was a national revelation this year. He ran for 2,028 yards, scored 15 touchdowns and was widely recognized as one of the very best running backs in all of college football.
But it wasn't until yesterday that we learned that, in the midst of his breakout season, he was dealing with an immense source of pain and anguish.
His signature game was a herculean effort against Texas Tech, where he ran by, over and through the Red Raiders defense to the tune of 341 yards and three touchdowns while averaging over 10 yards per carry.
Speaking exclusively to NFL Network's Andrea Kremer on NFL Total Access, Foreman spoke publicly for the first time about the death of his infant son and how that was the motivating force behind his remarkable junior season.
D'Onta Foreman Jr. was born prematurely last fall. Doctors told Foreman and his girlfriend that the baby had an excellent chance of being a healthy child. But, he developed an infection and died less than two months after he was born.
"I really didn't know how to feel," Foreman told Kremer. "I was like numb. I felt like something was taken away from me before I had a chance to experience it."
Sometimes in sports, we get caught up in 40-yard-dash times, how many times a player can bench press 225 pounds, how many yards they accumulated and the number of touchdowns they've scored.
But we often lose sight of the humanity behind who some of the athletes truly are and the circumstances they've had to overcome. After that West Virginia game last year, I found myself rooting for D'Onta Foreman, the football player.
At the upcoming NFL Draft and throughout the duration of his career and life after football, I will have a warm space in my heart for D'Onta Foreman, the man. He'll be running the football from here on out not only for glory and wealth, but to honor the legacy of his son's life.