For a brief respite from the hot afternoon sun Sunday, former NFL great Chuck Foreman was sitting in the shade, underneath a makeshift tent near the fence line on the track at Frederick High School.
It’s the same track where Foreman ran some of the best hurdle times in the state for the Cadets in the 1960s, although the surface was made of cinder back then and not the more forgiving synthetic rubber that is commonly used today.
At one point, a small crowd came down to the fence to chat with the former star tight end at Frederick High and later a Pro Bowl running back for the Minnesota Vikings. He was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1973 and was a two-time first team All-Pro. He played in five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1973-77.
But Foreman is not quite as steady on his feet as he was back then. On one occasion, he rose to stand up and had to pause to steady himself.
“I tell you what, man,” Foreman told the small-but-captive audience, a smile starting to cross his face. “I use to get so low to the ground, I was almost sideways when I made a cut. Now I can’t even stand up.”
The 68-year-old Foreman — he’ll turn 69 in late October — then huffed and shrugged his shoulders.
Foreman was back at his alma mater Sunday for the Kids & Pros football clinic, which attracted roughly 130 kids (ages 7-13) from around the area at no charge.
Other former NFL players, such as linebackers Rich Milot, a two-time Super Bowl champion, and Ken Harvey, a four-time Pro Bowler, of the Washington Redskins, were on hand to help out.
Frederick County football coaches Kevin Pirri (Frederick) and Jerry Smith (Brunswick) assisted in running the drills, which emphasized position fundamentals and safe-tackling techniques. The four-hour clinic was overseen, in part, by former Middletown High coach Kevin Lynott, who is now a master trainer for USA Football.
Foreman, however, was the biggest star of the show. He spoke to the kids on two separate occasions, emphasizing both times that anything is possible in both football and life with the proper amount of desire, hard work and sacrifice. He was a natural choice to help out at the running backs station.
Later, he was approached by both campers who were far too young to remember him as a player and their parents for autographs.
“I was pretty excited when I found out 44 was going to be here,” Doug Pursley said in reference to Foreman’s playing number.
Pursley is the executive director of Kids & Pros, now in its 18th year, and a longtime Minnesota Vikings fan.
After flying in from his home in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, early Sunday morning, Foreman showed up for the camp in khaki shorts, a black Frederick High golf shirt, blacks shoes and socks and a light gray, camouflaged floppy hat.
He is in good shape, having dropped 10 pounds over the past few months thanks to the 15-mile, early-morning bike rides he takes and a light weightlifting regimen.
The unsteadiness on his feet was mostly due to a slow recovery from surgery he had on his ankle nearly three years ago and was not really age related. At one point, while sitting under the tent, he grabbed a bag of ice and put it on the ankle.
Foreman occasionally moved around his old stomping grounds with the assistance of a small scooter that he could prop his left leg on.
“I can walk, man. I just can’t be on my feet for long periods of time. That why I need this thing,” he said, referring to the scooter.
At one point, he took off his left shoe to relieve some discomfort, revealing a soft brace he wears on the ankle.
Foreman flew into BWI Airport and then drove himself to Frederick in a rental car. Prior to showing up at the camp, he stopped by his old house on Broadview Drive in Frederick, where his mother, Janet, passed away almost one year to the day (June 29, 2018) at the age of 89.
“It was sort of weird not seeing her. But, you know, she’s still there,” Foreman said.
Not everything on this trip home was familiar to him, though.
The clinic was conducted on a football field that didn’t exist when Foreman was running through and away from would-be tacklers at Frederick High. The Cadets played their home games on the other side of town during that time.
The field is also comprised of synthetic turf, which wasn’t even a figment of anyone’s imagination during Foreman’s playing days.
A couple of hundred yards aways sat the new Frederick High School, which opened in the fall of 2018. Foreman said he hadn’t been inside the new school yet but wanted to do so soon. He also talked about coming back for a Frederick High football game this fall, something he hasn’t done in more than a decade.
The old Frederick High that Foreman knew sat right next to the site of the new school. It was demolished in 2018, 79 years after it opened.
Foreman’s appearance at the camp proved to be an eye-opening experience for him.
At one point, he was approached along the fence by Middletown resident Brad Considine, who claimed he had Foreman’s NFC Rookie of the Year trophy in his possession.
Foreman shot him a look and said, “How did you get that?” Considine then told him he had purchased it on eBay.
Now shaking his head, Foreman said, “It never fails. I show up at one of these things, and people are handing me my own stuff for me to sign.”
Considine didn’t have the trophy with him and offered to return it to Foreman. Prior to meeting one of his sports idols Sunday, he was considering giving it to Frederick High to display in the its trophy case.
Foreman believes the trophy was stolen from him during a recent move he made in Minnesota. But he was not even aware it was missing until Considine brought it to his attention. He thought it was packed away in storage.
“I tell you what,” Foreman said. “The first thing I am going to do when I get home is go through all of those boxes to see what is there and what is not.”
A few minutes later, Considine produced what he claimed to be a white game-worn Vikings jersey of Foreman’s with purple numerals.
“Let me see that,” Foreman said.
After closely inspecting for a few minutes, checking the texture of the fabric and for any distinctive marks, Foreman confirmed that, yes, it was one of his jerseys. He believed it was from one of the NFC championship games he played in, and knew the jersey had been missing for years.
Considine asked him to sign the jersey and then hold it up while he took Foreman’s picture. Foreman, somewhat sheepishly, obliged.
“It’s not your fault, man,” Foreman told Considine. “You are not the one I have a problem with.”
Upon overhearing all of Foreman’s career accolades, a young camper who had also stationed himself under the tent to take a breather from the heat said to Foreman, “You must of have been rich.”
Foreman smiled again, looked around and said, “Listen to this man.”
Then, in one of his final lessons of the day, he threw his arm around the young boy and informed him, “Not in my day, brother. We didn’t make that kind of money back then.”