From NFL free agent to starting and playing a key role for a division champion, Mason Foster plays with an intensity fueled by a desire to repay the Redskins for adding him to the roster.
A humble Mason Foster would tell you the he feels he's done "alright" in recent weeks, but since being inserted into the starting lineup in early December, the veteran linebacker has been a key contributor on a defense that's been trending up.
The Washington Redskins on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, announced the signing of linebacker Mason Foster. Take a look at his NFL career in photos.
In his first start with the Washington Redskins against the Dallas Cowboys, Foster, who had 54 starts as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2011-2014, tallied seven tackles and was key in forcing two turnovers.
His productive play has continued in recent weeks, as he also recorded seven tackles against the Philadelphia Eagles while compiling six tackles against both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills.
Foster said his biggest goal was that he didn't want the defense to miss a beat when starter Perry Riley Jr. went down with a foot injury.
"I felt like there's definitely more plays I could make, more things I could do, but I'm just growing and learning as I go," Foster recently told Redskins.com. "We've got great coaches, watch the film and get better, I feel like I'm progressing and the biggest thing, when I came in and Perry [Riley Jr.] got hurt was the biggest thing was do my best, don't let nobody down."
One of the biggest factors into Foster's consistent play has been his intensity each and every snap.
There are no plays taken off by the University of Washington product.
"I'm just going to play as hard as I can and have fun with it, man, because we've got a great group of guys," Foster said. "You've got to enjoy it so I'm just having fun trying to play hard."
With Foster and Will Compton now starting at middle linebacker for the Redskins, it's a completely different tandem from Riley Jr. and Keenan Robinson, who were the starters at the beginning of the season.
Each pair brings its own strengths and weaknesses, but Foster and Compton have meshed well together in the absence of both Riley Jr. and Robinson, a Texas product who has been battling his own injury issues and has played sparingly in recent weeks.
"They're playing good, sound football and they're fundamentally making good tackles and they're communicating and they're in the right spot," Gruden said of Foster and Compton. "They're making people around them better, especially Will, he's making people around him better. That's not to say when Perry comes back, you know, we'll have to see what happens then but Mason and Will are playing well together."
When Foster was originally brought in by the Redskins in October, the linebacker knew Washington was a place he wanted to be after consulting with former teammates in Tampa Bay.
"I was really close with Dashon [Goldson], Adam [Hayward], and everybody that was here, so I knew that I wanted to be here," Foster said. "I watched Jay Gruden and I knew this was the place I wanted to be, so I tried to make the most of my opportunity when I got the try out. Everything happens for a reason."
Foster couldn't have imagined the position he's in right now just a few months ago when he was waiting for a call (he was released by Chicago on Sept. 5), but he gladly wants to pay the staff back with hard work.
He's done just that since being inserted into the starting lineup.
"I was on the street, got cut, and I just want to play as hard as I can to let Scot [McCloughan], let Gruden, everyone else know on the Redskins that they didn't make a mistake by picking me up," Foster said. "I was going to do whatever they wanted me to do. I'm just blessed to be a part of this team, and I'm going to do whatever they want me to do and play my role to the hardest to help this team win."