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January 7, 2017

Reuben Foster

Tampa, Florida

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: My role is just make sure that everybody is in their spots, get them in the right position, just run our defense.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, of course. Deshaun Watson's a great, tremendous player. But the running back, he run super hard and like downhill, not very heavy, but he got a lot of running skills.

Q. How have you guys been able to pace yourselves, so to speak, knowing that you're coming off the Peach Bowl win and now, you play for the National Championship on Monday night. It is a long season. How rested and energized will you guys be on Monday night?
REUBEN FOSTER: We'll be well rested, man. The coaches have been preparing us, the trainers have been preparing us, we're just going to go out there and just play our football, play physical.

Q. Any distraction at all in terms of what's gone on, on the offensive side of the ball? You guys are kind of your own business over there on defense. But any reaction to what happened on the other side of the football with the staff this week?
REUBEN FOSTER: No, we have no worries. What they do, they do. That's the offensive side of the ball, we worry about the defensive side of the ball.

Q. Clemson has been pretty vocal about saying they want another shot at Alabama. How does that make you feel?
REUBEN FOSTER: It feels great, man, knowing that we have a back-to-back rematch, so it will be wonderful.

Q. We were talking about it in terms of sequels. Obviously it's a second go around between you guys and Clemson. Sequels aren't always as good as the original. Why is this sequel going to be so special?
REUBEN FOSTER: Because it's another Natty and we just got to get through it, for real.

Q. You've got fans that are pretty aggressively involved in what you guys do. It's different than a lot of places. I can't really compare it to anywhere. Do you have a personal experience with a fan that's just kind of like, wow?
REUBEN FOSTER: All of them, for real, man. The fan base is crazy. They live and die -- Alabama bleed crimson, and I like it.

Q. Do you ever feel any added pressure from the fans in terms of Alabama's always expected to win.
REUBEN FOSTER: No, they got our back. So we're not pressured by the fans. It's just, basically got to do us and just feel comfortable about doing us.

Q. Seems like Coach Saban, no matter how much success you guys have, he always wants more. What makes coach happy? What makes him smile?
REUBEN FOSTER: Coach likes winning. So if everybody else likes winning, coach will smile. So we love winning, too.

Q. You slimmed down this off season, and you've been a bit faster, been flying all over the field. Do you think that's going to help you in this game against a mobile quarterback like Deshaun Watson?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. All of us lost weight this year, so it should help us to be mobile around him and hold Clemson on offense because they are fast and pretty big and physical.

Q. This is your last game in an Alabama uniform. Have you thought about that at all, or what kind of legacy you want to leave in this game?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, I thought about it, leaving tremendous players like this on this team, because we got a great relationship, great teammates, and it hurt me just to know I'm about to leave this.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: No, no. We ain't taking no advantage of anything. It is what it is. We got to treat them like the rest. We can't let them be like overachievers, get to us, or nothing. We can't just sit back and let them get all the hype, so.

Q. They have had a lot of offensive success against you guys last year. Deshaun threw for about 400 yards --
REUBEN FOSTER: I already know. Yeah.

Q. What kind of changes do you guys think you're going to make or what are you doing to prepare for this year?
REUBEN FOSTER: Just have confidence and poise in our play. He's a great player and everything, but all we got to do is just have poise and confidence in our play and just don't beat ourself and just know the schemes and the schemes they run.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: It's not just me, I want everybody to have an impact. Whoever has not been showing, I just want them to show up. It's not about me, I already got my shine for real. But there's other guys, I want the other guys just to eat and feed and that will make me eat and feed.

Q. What lessons can you take from last year's game?
REUBEN FOSTER: Just run to the ball, for real, and just know your assignment, have poise and confidence. Last year I didn't have poise and confidence. And I don't know about the rest of the players, but I know, I know last year I didn't have poise and confidence, I didn't have enough.

Q. Is this year's defense different?
REUBEN FOSTER: It's not different, it's just we're still the same Alabama playing physical and toughness and you know how it is, we scrape.

Q. I talked to some offensive coordinators and they said your ability for your ends to get to the quarterback as efficiently and quickly as they have has really changed the dynamic of this year's defense. How does the success of the defense help?
REUBEN FOSTER: It's allowed a lot of success for all defensive players on each levels. Because you got to realize we got Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson, Jonathan Allen, and Dalvin and Payne up in front. And I just named all our starters and they are a threat. So, they give the linebacker to make more plays, the DB's make more plays with the quarterback hurry ups. So everybody affects it.

Q. Can you talk about how important it is for the defense to not only get stops, but put points up on the board because you guys have done that all year.
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. The sense of urgency just to put points on the board by the defense is a lot, because we know we have been doing it for, since the beginning of the season. So why stop now, we don't want to shorten ourself.

Q. Is it one of the goals to get turnovers?
REUBEN FOSTER: It's always the goal just to get turnovers. The more turnovers you get, the more likely you'll win. But we don't worry about all that, we just worry about dominating our box, really.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Offensive change?

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: We don't worry about it, like, that's building unnecessary anxiety. So we just try our best just to go on the sidelines, fix the scheme, and really just evaluate the pros and cons off of the play they just run.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. They joke around about their TD's, because only like three guys on the defense that don't have touch downs and, yeah, they pick on us.

Q. What kind of stuff is that?
REUBEN FOSTER: Like Ryan will be like, if y'all don't got to pick six, don't talk to me. If you're not a DB, you can't talk to me.


Q. He has one so he can talk now?
REUBEN FOSTER: He has one, that's why he can talk. Yeah.

Q. When you Dee Deshaun Watson, what stands out from this year as opposed to last year?
REUBEN FOSTER: His athleticism. He don't let nothing get him down. Like, you don't never see him in down mode, he's always up, and I like that about him. He's always up.

Q. Where does he rank as far as quarterbacks that you've faced?
REUBEN FOSTER: He made it this far, right? So he got to be a top quarterback.

Q. I think there's something somebody said that you guys have won so many national championships recently. They're going for their first in 35 years. Some people think that they got the chip on their shoulder going into this game. How do you feel about that? It's been 35 years since Clemson won one.
REUBEN FOSTER: Well, yeah. They got a chip on their shoulder, man. Like everybody got a chip on their shoulder, especially when it comes to playing Alabama versus Clemson. And of course, we got a chip on our shoulder, too, because Clemson, they're a hard team to beat.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Right now, I can't imagine playing another game after this. But in the league, I guess, we will have to play more games than this. But I don't imagine playing more games than this.

Q. How does your body feel after a game and after a season?
REUBEN FOSTER: Trust me, you know.


Q. Mack Wilson, what are your impressions of him as a linebacker?
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, man, Mack Wilson is a great player. Along with Rashaan Evans. But Mack Wilson, man, he's a great, outstanding player. But everybody be like the young Foster, no, he's the young Mack Wilson. He's Mack Wilson. He's got his own playing style and it's tremendous.

Q. What about his punting? Do you guys like watching him punt at all?
REUBEN FOSTER: It shocked me how I see the man at practice punting, practicing punting. I was like, well, I can't do that. I want to be an athlete, too. I was kind of jealous.

Q. Is he good?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, he's very good at punting.

Q. He can punt all right?

Q. Linebacker or punter?
REUBEN FOSTER: I'll stick with linebacker. You got to have that dog of your own, don't get soft.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: It's been my fingers and my wrists. But you don't need your fingers and your hands, you can use your body. So that's what I think about it, or what I think of it. So, them saying I'm physical and I'm tough, thank you, to the team.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Man, it's been hurting since last year. But it's great. It's a small thing.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, it's two fingers.

Q. (No microphone.)

Q. You broke one in that game?

Q. Did the trainers try to get you to sit out and you were just insistent to play?
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, yeah. They try to take very good care of me. But at the same time, I just love being on the field, I love the football, I love the adrenaline. So, of course, I want to be on the field. So, I won't let fingers stop me.

Q. What is it like playing Clemson for a second straight year in this spotlight?
REUBEN FOSTER: It feels great. We just know that we got the best of the best playing each other again and they're great, they're a great team. You got your wide receivers, you got quarterback, running backs, and they got a big offensive line. But Watson, he's a tremendous athlete.

Q. How does it maybe differ a little bit preparing for this year's version of Clemson than last year's?
REUBEN FOSTER: How is it different? You just got to work harder because you know they're coming with a chip on their shoulder. They're coming with vengeance. So, of course we're going to have to work harder and get treatment, extra treatment, running, training, train more.

Q. Does it seem fitting that you two are meeting here in this spot for the second straight year?
REUBEN FOSTER: It's crazy, crazy. Everybody say they want to go win a National Championship, but it's crazy that we are here and they're here and it's back to back. So, it's crazy. Just thinking about it.

Q. You mentioned that they have a chip on their shoulder. Do you guys have a chip on your shoulder as well?
REUBEN FOSTER: Of course we got a chip on our shoulder because they come in the second year trying to win the title. So of course they're going to come with a chip on their shoulder, trust me. So we know that, so we got to come prepared and have confidence in our play and have a chip on our shoulder as well.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, man, I thought nobody could stop him. I thought he was Superman for a minute. And that was crazy, just I wouldn't be able to pick up that read about somebody chop blocking me. And the D-line, man, picking up that read and flying over him to make a sack, that is crazy. I never seen that happen.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: He plays a valuable part. He's great. He got to play our safety, because we are kind of down on safeties right now. And he stepped in tremendously and filled up the hole on the back side, the weak safety side.

Q. You've been on some great Alabama teams. When did you know that this team was special?
REUBEN FOSTER: All the love that all the players give each other, that's how I knew this team was special, because it's built on like love and trust and stuff like that. We got each other's back, we are here for each other.

Q. When you talk about the process, talk about what process means to you.
REUBEN FOSTER: The process means, I think, it's just a scripture, like a book, scripture, process, like on time, like the little things count with the process. It's not all about the big things, about getting the big, huge. It's about really just building your mind of like success and focus and mental. Everything is mental with the process. Like you might be tired, but you got to pick yourself up and say that you got this. Or even outside, like when you got to wake up and go do your job, it's mental. Everything is mental. That's what the process is built on.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: He brings craziness, power, because he brings adrenaline. Because when you see Jonathan hyped, you see everybody hyped. Like he got different keys on the defense. He's one of them that when you see him fired up, you know the whole defense is fired up.

Q. Is that every game or is it like --
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, that's every game. It's every game. He does it every practice.

Q. He brings it every practice?
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, every practice. Like, if you see him fired up, the whole defense is fired up. If you see Ryan fired up, the whole defense is fired up. So it's like every key, everybody's fired.

Q. How similar is Clemson's offense this year to what you faced last year?
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, man, they're still great. They still run the ball awesome, they still pass the ball awesome, they still got their gimmicks. Great wide receivers, big wide receivers, it's no weakness really. But if we do our schemes right and have poise and confidence in our play, we should be okay.

Q. Is it the same scheme, though? Do you feel like you're looking at the same offense, one that's just kind of recharged with a few different parts? Or do they do anything a little bit different personality-wise?
REUBEN FOSTER: They do a little bit different, but also, they do the same offense.

Q. And then just comparing Deshaun Watson, you faced Josh Dobbs earlier, you guys contained him. Is Deshaun, him and Dobbs, are they similar in a lot of respects?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. Both of them run the ball tremendously hard. Like, both of them are impact players for their team. Dobbs, he run downhill, so don't think because we stopped him, every hit didn't hurt. He's a tremendous runner.

Q. That's interesting, you say he runs downhill. What do you mean?
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, he runs downhill. Like, every hit was a collision and like, he's got to go, he goes north and south, there's no side. Watch the film.

Q. We spent a lot of time asking questions about the team. What do you want to talk about, what's on your mind this week?
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, shoot, it's game. Just trying to win. Trying to dominate our box and just trying to get the fellas right. They're already right, because they're more ready than me. But just trying to get them right and just trying to stay focused and be a leader of this team before it's time. But right now, I'm just trying to focus on getting it right for next year and all that, just focused on that.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Just eliminate the missed tackles, the mental errors, just really get to it and just run our scheme.

Q. You talk about Clemson wants revenge because they lost last year, but defensively is it almost a little bit of an edge for you guys?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. They put up a lot of points against us. So, of course, we're going to try to lower that down a lot, try to. But they're a great team. If you mess up, they will turn that around on you and just score. They are a good team.

Q. The tight end, Jordan, what's your impression of him and the challenge that he brings?
REUBEN FOSTER: He brings a lot, especially on the pulling game, on the counters. He is really tough and a physical guy.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Difference? The difference is just losing weight and really just building up my speed and quickness.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: I wasn't focusing on that. I was just -- it just came for real, but I just, it just came, really. By them helping me, by losing weight, and I just see that losing weight plays a big part in this football game.

Q. You have one game left in your career here. When you look back at your time at Alabama, do you have one game that jumps out at you, one or two games that are your favorites, that you have the best memory from?
REUBEN FOSTER: Well, shoot, all of them. All of them. Great memories, all of them, really. But I can't just pick a particular one, because we won all of them, so all of them was great to me.

Q. When you hear the media talk about how Alabama dominates and that it's kind of bad for college football and bad for fan interest. What do you think about that?
REUBEN FOSTER: It's football, man. It's not bad for interest, it's, like, it's football. If you dominate your box, then and you have poise and confidence in your play, I guess it will get boring if you just mess up everybody else's schemes that they play.

Q. What's the key to defending Deshaun?
REUBEN FOSTER: He's a great player. I don't know what the key is of beating him. We got to focus on all levels of the offense. There's the offensive line, there's Dobbs, and the wide receivers, because he's a great player, he can run, he can pass.

Q. I know how motivated they are for the rematch because they lost. Given how well Deshaun did against your defense last year, how motivated are you to have another shot at him?
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, yeah, we got a chance to prove people wrong from last year. Like I said, they're a tremendous team and Deshaun Watson, they really put points up on us last year, but hey, that's football.

Q. Have you seen another team that compares to them offensively before? The last three, four, five years, they have been known as one of the most explosive offenses in the country.
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, Clemson, there's not like another team comparing to Clemson. Clemson is Clemson, everybody runs their own football schemes. But it's just a fact, can we stop them? Like, they are a great team. Like I said, it's just does their scheme matchup with our scheme, who can be dominant, who can be ferocious, like who can dominate more.

Q. As this got closer and closer, many of the Tigers kept saying you're the only team they wanted in this game. How do you guys feel? Do you even care who you play?
REUBEN FOSTER: We just know that they are a tremendous team. And they are so happy they made it, and they are a great team, they deserve to make it in this, in the National Championship. It's just we're not focusing on an individual team. It's just so happens we have to focus on Clemson, but we're going to focus on Clemson though.

Q. Just the next team in the way?
REUBEN FOSTER: Just the next team in the way.

Q. Coach Saban has got some pretty impressive statistics in big games, BCS games, playoffs. Does that kind of give you guys that much more confidence, just knowing that's always going to put you guys in the right position?

Q. Yeah.
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, really, he's going to put you in position to make plays and that's what I love about this defense because everybody got a chance to make plays. And if you dominate your box, it don't matter if you make plays or not, you're going to always be around the ball. So that's fun for me, too.

Q. What is the process mean to you? We hear a lot about it.
REUBEN FOSTER: The process? The process is more mental. It's really about mental. Like, can you breakdown. Like, how much does it take for you to break down or how much does it take to do this. It's mostly mental. That's the process.

Q. Is coach Saban, in your mind, the greatest coach in college football history?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. He's the greatest coach in college football. It's weird to me because he fuss and he fuss, and he would be like, what did you get out of this? But at the end of the day, you realize like, okay, I see what he was going for, like, I see what he was getting at.

Q. I wonder if could you walk me through kind of that pre-snap procedure, because you got the mic in your ear. When does that shut off?

Q. Like when you guys can no longer hear from the coaches.
REUBEN FOSTER: In the helmet? What microphone in the helmet?

Q. Before a snap, before an offensive snap, you guys are out on the field. When do you stop seeing their signs and focus on getting yourself in the right position.
REUBEN FOSTER: Say that whole thing again. You lost me with the mic in the helmet.

Q. I'm trying to get you to walk me through your procedure for reading the offense and trying to figure out where everyone is going.
REUBEN FOSTER: Okay. Okay. I just really, like, look to the sidelines and get the call. And, basically, they have like a little sign saying blue, green, or whatever. But you, obviously, you know if it's orange, blue, green, white. But it's just you read the call, and you'll know what they're in, the personnel that they're in, and I just set up everybody. And I don't know, I take it through film, I really don't know.

Q. You're seeing whoever you're about to play on film all week, and then if you see them do something that you recognize, you'll say, hey, get over there?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. I tell them to go over there, but I don't just call their players out. They might audible and just check. But, other than that, I just play my game, set my guys all right and just make sure that it's the play that they're running and we can make it backfire on them for real.

Q. When you watch all this film of Deshaun again this year, what stands out to you more this year about him than what you saw last year?
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, you will never see Deshaun Watson down. You might see him a little upset, and then, or nothing like that. But's great leader. Like, he'll pick up his team very fast and you don't see no downfall on him.

Q. When you look back at your career, what hits will you remember the most that you laid on other players?
REUBEN FOSTER: My homeboy Leonard Fournette.


Q. What year?
REUBEN FOSTER: Shoot, I don't remember.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: It's 11? I thought it was a nine, because I think, like, three of us then, or two of us, didn't catch one. Two or three. On the defense.

Q. That's a lot.
REUBEN FOSTER: It is a lot.

Q. How does this happen?
REUBEN FOSTER: Just being -- just having confidence in your play for real and just knowing the schemes and the challenges that we have to face for real. Like, just know the pros and cons out of every play and how you can beat them and how you can disguise your scheme into affecting the quarterback or just trying to beat coverage. Like, you might switch something up from the running back, like, last game for Ryan. He jumps from quarterback to like running back.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Me? Yeah. I can coach, I can coach it. I can coach the defense. See ball, get ball.


Q. Where does Deshaun Watson rank in the quarterbacks that you guys have faced this year? You look at him on film and just his athletic ability and what he brings to the table.
REUBEN FOSTER: Sure, I rank him pretty high, man, because you got to realize, he's here, he made it this far. He led his team up this far, so he got to be a great quarterback.

Q. Were you surprised that what they did to Ohio State?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, I was surprised. I was surprised because, you know, that's Ohio State. They made it to the playoffs just like we made it to the playoffs. Every playoff game be a dog fight.

Q. When you look at these running backs, the weapons they have and just a very explosive offense all the way around, just talk about that.
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. They got all-around talent on offense, regardless, from the offensive line, wide receivers, and the running back. So that's really shocking and really hard, like, to play against, really, when they got all levels that are great.

Q. You guys watched film the other day of the that Ohio State/Clemson game. In the film room, just watching these guys dominate, what was that like?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. They dominated for sure. They had toughness. It was just the fact that we got to come out and have our toughness and we got to dominate our box. Yeah, we're worried about what they did with Ohio, but it's us now.

Q. What did Deshaun do to you guys last year? When you go back and watch the tape, what were your impressions?
REUBEN FOSTER: Just, he just was doing him, being Watson. And that's what hurt us. And we got to just focus on that and just get pressure on him, affect the quarterback, and all that.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: The game is not built on, like, emotions. They want revenge and, yeah, they can have it. But it's just, we just play the game. It's not set off revenge or vengeance or whatever. It's just set off, we want to dominate the most or who really wants this win. You can't do it off revenge.

Q. As a defense were you disappointed, at all, in the amount of points that you gave up?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. We were disappointed on how we played, wasn't surprised, because they are a great team. They beat you, they beat your heads up. So we wasn't surprised, we were just skeptical about our play.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Being Clemson.

Q. Are the best two teams in college football playing for this National Championship?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, I agree. Yeah. The best two teams are playing in this National Championship. Clemson and Alabama.

Q. So you're obviously pretty excited that it's Clemson again and you guys get a second go around with these guys?
REUBEN FOSTER: I'm very excited just to play them again, because they are a tough team. It's going to be a war. I'm very excited just to play them, because they are a tremendous team.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: We built and we talk about Natty. National, national. Do you really want this? Do you really want this? Like, we think about fourth quarter and all that. And we have been through a lot and we feel like that. We don't worry about the outside, we just worry about what goes on inside of Alabama. And so that's why we don't listen to the outside of it. We just worry about what's going on and we hurt with each other and we fight for each other. So we always have an edge and we always have a standard just to build off of.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, man, he brought rage. Like he brought hype. Every meeting he's coming with it. He don't hold nothing back. So, we just feel like we can't hold nothing back. Our defensive coordinator ain't holding nothing back, so we got to step up and we can't hold nothing back.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: The red carpet?

Q. The crimson carpet.
REUBEN FOSTER: At the airport? Oh, that was great. It was great just to have that red carpet. I felt famous for a little minute.

Q. How excited are you to play here in this stadium?
REUBEN FOSTER: I'm very excited just to play in this stadium. You know, we're playing a top team, of course, that embarrassed us last year, but I feel great.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: I have no -- none.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: No. I don't worry about that, I just worry about getting it down.

Q. You said you were embarrassed after last year's game. Can you talk about that?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. It was embarrassing. We didn't play our ball. We had mental errors. We wasn't confident in our play. So of course putting up them type of numbers on us was embarrassing.

Q. So it was more about what you guys didn't do last year than what Clemson did do last year in that game as a defense?
REUBEN FOSTER: No. I'm just saying that Clemson, Clemson did some amazing things. I'm not taking that away from them. They score, they score. Some of them plays, they actually scored. But, of course, we had mental errors and upsets and everybody's not perfect. They just so happened to take advantage of all that.

Q. Was there a time this year, as a defense, that you guys felt embarrassed?
REUBEN FOSTER: Just on and off during the game, you feel embarrassed. We got to start off fast and quick and with rage.

Q. The Ole Miss game? How did you guys feel after that one?
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, man, Ole Miss got tricks and gimmicks all over the place, so we felt good winning that one. So we don't feel no type of weak with that game.

Q. What have you seen from the offense going against the guys in practice this week?
REUBEN FOSTER: Our offense? Man, they're coming off the ball. They're coming with vengeance. They feel like they got something to prove, I guess, from the last game or whatever. But I don't know, but it's a different chip on their shoulder. Trust me.

Q. Do you think the difference has anything to do with switching offensive coordinators? Do you think Sarkisian has brought a renewed feeling to the team?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. Sarkisian is a great offensive coordinator. And it's not a change in coaches, it's just a fact that do they want to work with him, which I guess he got the burn with the offense and they want to work for him. So I guess they built a love and trust over there.

Q. When you see a quarterback like Deshaun Watson, obviously great, but he has a tendency to turn the ball over, like 15 inceptions this year. Is that something you look for in film, like maybe you can take advantage of something?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. You look for weakness in the quarterback and 15 interceptions, that's shocking to me that he threw or the forced fumbles, it's shocking, because he is a tremendous player. But if you're leading a team, you got do a little extra and go a little beyond, so it's not as shocking, because you got to try, you got to take the ball in there some way, somehow, just to get your team over the edge.

Q. You've been here awhile, you know the process, you took awhile to get where you're at now. How difficult was it to get where you're at now? Because it took a couple of years.
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, it was difficult, just changing the eating habits, sleep, mental phase. It was really hard over the years, but I had help over the coaching staff and all that, so it, as when the process got done, it got easy.

Q. Part of it is you can see the progress yourself, can't you?
REUBEN FOSTER: I saw it, like, I saw it when it happened. I saw it when it happened. But just looking back now I was like, man, right now my back would be aching, my knees would have been sore, something, my neck probably would have been hurt from back then. But now I feel great.

Q. What's its biggest difference?
REUBEN FOSTER: Losing weight. Losing weight and my eating habits and hydrating more. That was the biggest difference that I could ever make, they made for me, that I built on to myself that I ever made.

Q. Are you a smarter tackler than you were?
REUBEN FOSTER: Way smarter. Trust me. If I know I got one thing on this end, it's just about like three on this one, I know that to go for your legs and not to tackle you up top. But that's smart, too. So, of course, I'm a smarter tackle. And people talk about I tackle low. Of course I'm going to tackle low, I have no fingers.

Q. What's the, this season, you have really moved into the leadership role. What does it take to become a leader on a team like this?
REUBEN FOSTER: It takes a lot. You got to do things that you don't normally want to do. You got to do things that the teammates don't want to do, but you got to show them and prove it to them that I can fight, I can fight through this and I'm going to help you all get through this. But it's something that you done want to do, but you're just helping your team out. That's what builds the leadership that we have on this team.

Q. The leadership by example, right?
REUBEN FOSTER: Lead by example.

Q. And for you now, last game, how satisfying is it to be playing for a National Championship? What does that mean to you?
REUBEN FOSTER: A last one. So I want to go out with a bang. And just knowing that we have a chance to go win the National Championship again in 2017. It feels great.

Q. You said you feel a lot better at this stage of the season than you might have a couple of years ago. Can you imagine if they expanded the playoff to six or eight and you had to play another game?
REUBEN FOSTER: I'm not focusing on that right now. I couldn't imagine it.

Q. You wouldn't be in favor of it, if it was that long?
REUBEN FOSTER: It would give a lot of people opportunities. But also bang a lot of people up. That's what I feel like. If you give all the teams an opportunity to go to the National Championship, but a lot of people would be banged up, trust me. It's not like NFL, the pads in practice still hurt when you hit it. And over them period of times you're going to feel it.

Q. Do people on the outside appreciate the difference, even from a 14th game to a 15th game?
REUBEN FOSTER: I really don't know. I don't really look on the outside what the people are talking about. I just look on what we build on and what we think, like as football players, that's how we play the game.

Q. Do you think college football in practice should go more to the NFL model where you don't hit as much?
REUBEN FOSTER: No, no. I'm not saying that, because you still need to be physical and grind. But at the same time, it's just the extent of the playoffs will have people hurt.

Q. How much have you guys worked on tackling?
REUBEN FOSTER: That's all we do. Use your legs and your shoulders, it let's you tackle right, it let's you grab at the ball right, we praise that. So, of course, we do that in practice every time.

Q. What has it meant to you this year, all the awards and everything else that you've won, what's that meant to you?
REUBEN FOSTER: It's meant a lot just to see people, just realizing that my work ethic and it feels great just to win the Butkus Award, and bringing home a lot of hardware, you get voted team captain by the team. It really is showing that they see me working for them and not for me, for them. Like, I'm working for them, really.

Q. Can you talk about, when somebody comes in as a highly regarded recruit, five star, four star, whatever, you have the process where they break you down and rebuild you again. How hard is it for guys that are coming in, what do you tell the guys that are coming in that highly recruited, saying you got to start over, man.
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. That's part of the process, too. Like, I'm coming in as a four star, five star, and I'm used to starting all my years, even in baseball, when I didn't even play baseball, like, I started there. So, it breaks you down and it hurts so bad. But they help you keep fighting and they will tell you, like, this is not high school or nothing. But it's just the fact that can you humble yourself and bring yourself up and just realize that you can be a better person than a four star, five star, high school player, come back up here, really try to accomplish more things than the starters that you got in front of you, but don't tell them that, but you picking their brains and learning from them, but you want to try to be better than them.

Q. Is that what it meant for you?
REUBEN FOSTER: It meant that for me. Just like being around C.J., and Reggie and all them.

Q. Were you in the same class as Reggie?
REUBEN FOSTER: I came in 2013.

Q. So he was a year ahead of you?

Q. Did he help you with that?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, he helped me. C.J., Tre, all them helped me. I picked all their brains. I made sure I seen the playing style of C.J., the playing style of Tre, and the playing style of regular gee, and I just took it and made it my own.

Q. Who are guys who are picking your brain?
REUBEN FOSTER: Rashaan Evans, HDH and Mack Wilson. Keith Holcombe, he's doing a tremendous job of picking my brain as well every practice. He's there. And Josh, he's coming along. He's coming along. He's starting to get into, he's starting to pick it.

Q. What has Ryan Anderson meant to the defense this year?
REUBEN FOSTER: Ryan Anderson meant a lot to the defense. He's a dog. He's an alpha. Believe it or not, he's an impact player on defense. We need Ryan, because he brings that inner person out of everybody, that inner dog.

Q. How great is it to be the mentor on this team?
REUBEN FOSTER: It feels great to be the mentor. I never thought I would be a mentor. I thought I would still be picking people's brains, like the coaches and whatever. But it feels great to be the mentor.

Q. You dropped some weight in the offseason, how much did you drop and why did you drop it?
REUBEN FOSTER: I dropped a lot, man, like 25, close to 30 pounds.

Q. 245 to 220?
REUBEN FOSTER: Last time I checked, I was like 223.

Q. What was your heavy point last year?
REUBEN FOSTER: 245, 250.

Q. Why did you drop the weight?
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, man, knee problems, back, tired, stamina. Just stuff that you have by -- if you do gain weight.

Q. The knee issue never kept you out of games before. Was it more of just a nagging thing?
REUBEN FOSTER: It was just more a nagging thing and hyperextending my knee. But it's small things like that.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, we always tell our players just to wait their time. It's just, while you're waiting, get in the play book, pick everybody's brain, know what they like to do outside, like how to warm up, how to get ready. To build less of an anxiety. So, of course, we're going to try to pick their brains about that so we won't have anxiety on the field.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: He can be a monster for real, man. He's a monster. He is a monster.

Q. Why do you say that?
REUBEN FOSTER: Look how big he is. He's huge.

Q. From a skill point though?
REUBEN FOSTER: Skill? He's just got to have poise and confidence in his play. That's it. He's got everything down pat. It's just, do have you poise and confidence.

Q. Can you talk about the competition within each other on defense, whether it's in practice or during a game, just talk about the competition within each other.

Q. No, you, in your defense.
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, yes. It's a competition with the defense, because you don't never know who is going to get to the ball first. So we got to run to the ball, because like it's a competition because we got all types of five star players or, like, tremendous players that will go in the first round, just on the defensive line itself. So they got to pass the first level to get to the second level to get to the third level. So they got to pass the first level and the first level is hard. So, like it's crazy.

Q. Is there anyone that you compete with the most in practice?
REUBEN FOSTER: I compete with Ryan and Tim. And JA, of course. Like running to the ball, seeing who can get to the ball first. And, of course, they be getting mad at me because I be really trucking to the ball.

Q. Can you give me an example?
REUBEN FOSTER: An example?

Q. Just an interaction between you guys. What it's like?
REUBEN FOSTER: No, I don't -- no. I was going to do it but, no.

Q. The big emphasis with middle linebackers in the NFL now is for lighter, faster, guys that can play on third down, play coverage, get to the sideline, all that stuff. Did that weigh in at all to your decision to drop a little weight and that?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. It played a big part, a major part of my decision to lose weight. Coach come and talked to me and told me that I got to lose weight if I want to be the alpha of this defense.

Q. Do you really think playing the pass and playing well on third down is what separates the great MIKES from the average MIKES?
REUBEN FOSTER: All MIKES are great. It's just what's your skill in? That's it. Is it one through two? Is it third down? You never know. Like, you probably have somebody subbing you out on third down all because he got a better tendency or athleticism for third down.

Q. How do you feel about your ability to play the pass, play on third down, all that?
REUBEN FOSTER: I feel great. I feel great about my ability playing one through third down. I know the defense, so I feel like I can put people in the right place.

Q. Will that help you a lot in April, do you think?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. It will help me a lot.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: I wouldn't say defense is better around Watson. It's just the defense is going to have better poise and confidence just to play Clemson.

Q. What was missing last year that you think you have this year?
REUBEN FOSTER: There wasn't nothing missing, it was just we were messing up ourself. We had mental errors.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: We are lighter and we are quicker. It's just, we just can't beat ourself. We just got to have poise and confidence in our play and not just what they are doing, but it's about what we're doing, really.

Q. What did you guys do last year? You said you didn't play with poise last year. What happened?
REUBEN FOSTER: It's just I didn't have poise and confidence in my play. I didn't know the whole defense like that. Well, I knew the defense, I knew the defense, it was just I didn't -- I was second guessing myself. And that's what I mean by poise and confidence, is if you're going to hesitate about bringing, like firing the trigger on this play -- it's all about poise and confidence.

Q. Is the motivation on defense this year to perform better?
REUBEN FOSTER: There's always motivation to play and perform better. Of course, we feel embarrassed about last year, but we can't dwell on last year, so they put up a lot of points on us. We had mental errors. We didn't do what we needed to do. We didn't execute our plays like we needed to execute. We missed tackles and all that. So that's why this year, we're trying to make sure we don't miss as many tackles, make as many mental errors, or nothing like that. We got to play our ball.

Q. Facing Watson last year, does the fact that you faced him last year and saw what he does help you?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. It helps us a lot and it helps them a lot, because they faced us. It's just going to be a dog fight. We got to see what tricks and gimmicks they got for us and just go over them on the sideline and fix them up.

Q. They're a little different, too. They have better receivers. They have got a good defense and they play you strength for strength.
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. Like I said, it's going to be a war. It's going to be a war.

Q. Is it exciting? This is probably one of the reasons you play for a stage like this, two best teams in the country, offense against defense.
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah. I came to Alabama just to win a Natty and try to get another ring. So it's great just to go to the National Championship again.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: No. It's not crazy, anybody can win. It's just what type of chip you got on your shoulder, what kind of mental intensity you got in your head. Anybody can win. So it's not crazy people saying that Clemson can win. It just makes us want to go win it.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: I thought Rashaan Evans grew tremendously. When he first stepped foot at middle linebacker, he played great. He's just an athlete. When he got down to the plays it made him a great middle linebacker.

Q. What's he like on the defense, making the calls and adjustments and stuff. How would you describe him?
REUBEN FOSTER: It feels great. But he got plenty of time.

Q. How would you describe his demeanor on the field and what he's, like, calling plays and stuff. What's the energy like around him?
REUBEN FOSTER: His energy is, like, crazy. It's weird. He brings it, man. Don't get me wrong, he brings it. It's just, I've never seen him at middle linebacker. That's my high school football friend, so he always was on the edge in high school and now, college, and now he's over that middle linebacker and I see him demanding stuff, it's crazy.

Q. What aspects does he bring to middle linebacker?
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, he brings quickness and he is as light as me. So, of course, he's going to bring quickness, toughness. And he was light on the edge, so he know how them trenches feel, so now he's getting a head start, five yards deep, and coming down. So he brings a lot.

Q. What's it like when he comes up the middle?
REUBEN FOSTER: Rashaan? I don't know. It's crazy. I don't really know.

Q. You worked hard for this moment. How does it hit you when you have to look off to the sideline and you see all these people over there?
REUBEN FOSTER: It feels sad. It hurts me. My heart started racing and I would be like, dang, my dog, because normally me and Eddie, we'll go and, like, I'll be messing with him in the back end and be like, hey, make sure you hit him, if you don't hit him, guess what? I'm going to clean him up. Stuff like that. Like, I might be telling him, I'm tired, bro, you might have to come and fill this hole in for me on six. And, like, it's crazy. We always be back there joking and laughing and talk about our pass, man. In the game, during the game. And it's crazy.

Q. What goes through your mind when you think about being out there playing for a National Championship. How does that inspire you?
REUBEN FOSTER: He inspires me a lot. Because you never know when your time's up and he didn't know, which hey, that was hard. That was crazy. That was his last like shift. It's crazy. His last year, he hurt his shin, and he was a first round, well he's still a first round in my eyes, but it's just hurt because that's my friend, that's my father, that's my, you know.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: It's just make us feel like we do got a target on our back, all because we're Alabama and we always got a target on our back. People bring their best game when they play us. And it's just been a lot coming from him, because we're doing it for him. Like we're doing it for like we said, we do it for 28. Do it for 28.

Q. Clemson wanted to face you guys and wanted a rematch. The second that game was over, they were already talking about you guys.
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, of course, when you win a game, you go to the next game right away. But that's how we take it.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: I just seen leadership out of him. Just getting young guys right with the plays and all that. So I see a tremendous step up in HDH, not being selfish, because he's hurt, he don't want nobody stepping in his position, I see a tremendous leadership.

Q. How does he help with your position, specifically?
REUBEN FOSTER: He helped a lot. Kept a lot of pressure off me, of course. He's teaching the young guys as well. So he's still keeping a lot of pressure off me. He's picking up my slack by not letting me work extra, to help the younger guys, and he's really taking up that role to being like an extra coach.

Q. Is it weird not seeing him on the field?
REUBEN FOSTER: It's weird. It's weird.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: No, you know I can't do that.

Q. (No microphone.)
REUBEN FOSTER: Forget them, my mama scares me.

Q. How do you feel?
REUBEN FOSTER: How do I feel? A little razzle dazzle.

Q. How do you feel about this game?
REUBEN FOSTER: It's going to be a tough game. A very tough game. They're seeking for revenge.

Q. Do you feel like you got a chip on your shoulder this game?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, I got a chip on my shoulder. Everybody got a chip on their shoulder.

Q. Alabama is the gold standard in college football. This is an expectation for you guys to be here. Is that why you came to Alabama?
REUBEN FOSTER: Yeah, it's a standard that we got to play with and a standard we got to face. It is an expectation, like you said, and that's the only reason I came here.

Q. You're kind of in no man's land Monday night. You either got to chase No. 4 or cover receivers. That's a big job, isn't it?
REUBEN FOSTER: That's a huge job, man, just to be running all over the place and make sure you get everybody in the right scheme, the right defense, it's a tremendous job just to do that though.

Q. Something happened to your foot in practice and they had to cut your cleat.
REUBEN FOSTER: Who told you that?

Q. It was Terrell Hall.

Q. Tell me about that.
REUBEN FOSTER: Okay, I got a dog, and my dog chain had wrapped around my foot, and I almost like sliced my foot open. Like slice my piggy toe off. But it had ripped the whole nail and like I almost cut my piggy toe off. So, but I still played though.

Q. You still practiced. That was, his point of the story was, this is a guy who even when that happens he's still practicing.
REUBEN FOSTER: Oh, yeah, yeah I was still practicing, but I was still, it was hurting me. I was whining though, I was whining, but my goal was don't show weakness and if the younger guys see you working and fighting against this -- like my fingers -- they will do the same thing. So it had to take a lot to get them out, instead of just a little bit. Like I could have easily have said, no, I'm not practicing, because my toe is almost off, for real, but I could have easily said that, but, no, I wanted to fight for them.

Q. What kind of dog?
REUBEN FOSTER: What kind of dog? Bull Terrier. Cateleya.

Q. What's his name?
REUBEN FOSTER: Her. Cateleya. Off of Colombiana. Isn't that a movie Colombiana. It was a girl, you know, she was shooting people, like fighting crime. It was crazy. But it's a Bull Terrier. You know Chico on Friday's? One of them dogs. Chico on Friday's.

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