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Originally published January 26, 2011 at 9:53 PM | Page modified January 27, 2011 at 2:47 PM

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Huskies' Mason Foster looks to NFL, and again could prove skeptics wrong

The Washington linebacker could be chosen as high as the second round in the NFL draft.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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MOBILE, Ala. — The pride was as unmistakable as the Huskies purple. Mason Foster's parents were covered in both when they arrived in Alabama on Wednesday afternoon.

The day began about 2 a.m. in Seaside, Calif., for the parents of Washington's senior linebacker. They awoke early to drive more than two hours to San Francisco, then caught a four-hour flight to Houston before connecting to Alabama. They landed midafternoon, more elated than exhausted and impossible to miss walking through Mobile's one-terminal regional airport. There they were, all decked out in Huskies colors and ready to celebrate their son's play in Saturday's Senior Bowl, the top college all-star game and a showcase for NFL teams.

"You just finally can take a breath and go, 'OK, all this hard work and the sacrifice, the traveling around, everything has paid off,' " said Margarette, his mother. "No matter where he goes, no matter what round he goes, just the opportunity is huge."

This is the side of the NFL draft that will get overshadowed over the next three months. The annual talent selection is about more than sleepers, busts and 40-yard times. The draft is also a dream destination for a player like Foster, who was largely overlooked until Washington came calling in 2006.

He was a heck of a high-school player. He did just about everything for Seaside High School, from playing quarterback and blocking as a fullback to returning kicks and playing linebacker.

Yet Washington was the only Pac-10 school that really recruited Foster. It was only after the Huskies offered him a scholarship that schools like Oregon picked up the scent.

Foster came to Seattle and endured the low point of the program's history. In his first two years at the school, not a single Husky was drafted. Washington's success may have wavered, but Foster never did.

"I never had any doubts about playing at Washington," Foster said. "I knew either way — if it was football or if it was education — I knew I was at the right place. I knew I was going to have a good opportunity to do something with my life, if it was playing in the NFL or it was taking my degree and doing something else. I never doubted anything."

As a senior this season, Foster finished with 163 tackles, the most by any UW player in 20 years. Now he's here in Alabama, with more than 100 other top college seniors being showcased for an audience of NFL scouts and executives.

Foster weighs 241 pounds, a natural fit at weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, and he could also play inside in a 3-4 scheme. He could be chosen as high as the second round and is almost certain to be gone by the fourth.

But there are still three months to sort out all of that. Besides, there's a bigger picture to consider. Just getting this far — playing in a senior showcase game with the NFL watching — is quite an accomplishment.

"It's almost like when he was being recruited to go to the University of Washington," said William, his father. "Something that we thought was out of our reach as a family and for Mason. We never even thought about the NFL, because it's like if you think about it all the time and you don't make it, it's a disappointment."

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Foster's parents first pondered his professional possibilities after his junior season of college, when he was first eligible to enter the NFL draft. Now he's expected to be chosen in the first half of the draft. That will be quite a moment for a guy who doesn't even own a car yet.

This week was the start of a job fair. He was weighed, measured and interviewed by numerous teams. The oddest question he was asked? Would he cut off the dreadlocks he has worn since his sophomore year if a team asked? "Yeah, I definitely would cut my hair," Foster said.

No one in the NFL will ask him to. Mom, however, says someone else just might.

"His grandmother would love to hear that," Margarette said. "She'll be like, 'Yes, yes, cut that hair.' "

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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