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By JOEL COLEMAN
Last weekend, Starkville High tight end Martavius Foster took an official recruiting visit to Tennessee State University.
Once Foster took a look at the TSU campus and facilities, his mind was made up.
Foster confirmed to the Starkville Daily News Tuesday that he has verbally committed to the Tigers football program and will sign with the school on National Signing Day Feb. 2.
"It was bigger than I thought it was going to be," said Foster of Tennessee State. "They've got pretty good academics there by what I hear from the professors and coaches.
"What really sold me though is they run a pro-style offense with a lot of tight end/running back sets. As a tight end, I like catching the ball and blocking so it intrigued me."
According to Foster, both Mississippi State and Southern Miss were also possibilities during his recruiting process, but the opportunities at TSU were simply too great to pass up.
Mainly, Foster says the Tigers run offensive sets with two and three tight ends, giving the SHS standout the opportunity to contribute immediately upon his arrival to the Nashville campus.
"I talked to the coaches and they liked my film," said Foster. "They told me if I come in and do what I'm supposed to do and do the things that the film showed them I can do, then I can compete for a starting job my first year there."
Foster says he was assured that he wouldn't be redshirted.
If Foster improves as much in his first year with the Tigers as he did this past season with the Yellowjackets, TSU will be thrilled they opted to give Foster immediate playing time.
Jackets head coach Jamie Mitchell said Foster's game had developed to quite an impressive level.
"He's probably one of the most gifted kids we had," said Starkville head coach Jamie Mitchell. "He's 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and runs a legit 4.7 in the (40-yard dash). He was certainly a big offensive weapon for us and really grew as a blocker. It was one of those things he probably didn't like in the beginning but got better at it as he grew a little bit."
No one noticed the improvements more than Foster himself.
"Coach Mitchell just made me work hard and do the right things," said Foster. "It made my game better by making me block better than my junior year. The first thing (Mitchell) said when he saw me was that he had to get me tougher. I looked at him kind of crazy because I didn't know what he meant.
"Now, when I see myself blocking on film and compare it to the season before, it's a 180-degree turn."
Those characteristics will aid Foster's cause as he competes in the Ohio Valley Conference with TSU.
The Tigers struggled in 2010, finishing 3-8 overall with an 0-7 mark in OVC play.
With experience playing in Mississippi high school football's highest classification, Foster thinks he's ready to help increase Tennessee State's win total.
"Playing in the division we played in, it was always tough," said Foster. "Every weekend we were playing teams like South Panola or West Point. Those were always battles. Competing in games like that help you become a better person and a better player, or else you'll just get beat."
In Mitchell's eyes, Foster has a good chance to achieve success at Tennessee State.
The deciding factor, in Mitchell's eyes, will be how Foster handles the mental aspect of college football.
"Physically, I don't think (Foster) will have any problem at all and he'll be as good, physically, as I think (TSU's) players will be," said Mitchell. "The mental part will be the challenge. At that level, you're playing with people who are just as good as you are and it's an everyday grind. He'll have to push himself to get better, but physically, he'll be as gifted as they have."