Houston Texans' star running back Arian Foster opens up

(CBS News) The Houston Texans' star running back Arian Foster, who has just signed a new $44 million contract and  become a vegan, has been called "the most interesting man in the NFL."

CBS News caught up with Foster during a rare day off in Houston.

Foster, who grabs just as many headlines for what he does off the field as what he does on it, spoke candidly with CBS News about his rapid rise to stardom and his varied interests, which extend far beyond the gridiron.

For a player who went undrafted and unwanted out of college, the fame seems almost impossible. When asked about the label "the most interesting man in the NFL" - given to him by the publication The Sporting News - and whether people said the same thing when he was in Tennessee, Foster said, "No. When you're not successful, they call you 'weird.' They call you 'arrogant.' ... When you have success, you're 'abstract,' you're 'interesting.'"

Calling Foster interesting is an understatement. He's a part-time poet, former philosophy major, and, if you check his Twitter feed, aspiring quantum physicist.

But three years ago, he was just unemployed.

On draft night in 2009, when he wasn't picked, he said he initially thought his career was over. "I thought, 'I'm done playing football'," Foster said. "Because I didn't know much about undrafted free agents. I thought everybody got drafted. I thought that's how you got into the NFL."

Foster, an Albuquerque native, hooked on with the Houston Texans' practice squad and slogged through his first season - mostly riding the bench. Then, in 2010, a stunner: In the season's first game, he replaced the team's starting running back and exploded for 230 yards and three touchdowns.

He went on to lead the league in rushing that season, and he's hardly looked back, topping off every touchdown with his typical "Namaste" bow.

"The thing I chase now, I chase history," Foster said. "I want to be the best me that I can be. ... If you're playing the game and you're not trying to be the best that's ever done it, I don't know why you're playing."

Foster said he's been a questioning person since his childhood. "I would test people," he said. "I would push boundaries all the time in every aspect of my life."

Asked if he still does, he replied, "I do. Yeah, I try to."

This summer, Foster came out with another surprise. Forswearing all animal products in his diet, he announced he'd gone vegan.

"I've always dabbled in healthy options," Foster said. "I just kind of felt like it was the most healthy option for me."

Discussing the backlash he's received for the decision, Foster said, "I think it's funny, like nobody cared what I was eating last year and now everybody's interested."

Foster was mocked last year for posting a picture of his injured hamstring. He believes the new diet improves his body's ability to recover.

Running backs generally have a narrow window to perform. Asked if he thinks about that, Foster said he doesn't.

"People are always trying to put hurdles in front of you. There's running backs that do. There's running backs that don't. It's just statistically speaking the average of running backs isn't as high, but I've never considered myself average, so I kind of throw that to the wayside."

So how long does Foster want to play? "Until I'm satisfied," he said. Asked what that means, he replied, "I'll tell you when I get there. "

  • Jeff Glor

    Jeff Glor was named anchor of the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News" in January 2012 and Special Correspondent for "CBS This Morning" in November 2011.