CHANDLER — About a year ago, Randi Carson, executive producer for GameTime on YurView, a Cox TV station that showcases the top high school football matchups in Arizona, wanted to add a former player to work as a sideline reporter on the network’s broadcasts.
She envisioned something similar to what ESPN has done with Booger McFarland.
Carson looked around her office at posters of former Arizona high school football players and asked coworkers if any of them might still be around. Several pointed to a picture of former Scottsdale Saguaro High School and Arizona State star D.J. Foster and told her Foster used to play in the NFL.
"I was like, 'Boom, I need to talk to this guy,'" Carson said. "So I started trying to stalk him on social media and get him, but he was in Canada playing football there for the (Toronto) Argonauts. So I couldn’t touch base with him."
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Carson reached out to Saguaro football coach Jason Mohns, who was an assistant when Foster played at the Scottsdale powerhouse. Foster graduated from Saguaro in 2012, and Mohns helped connect Carson with Foster, who had been given his release by the Argonauts to pursue other opportunities.
"(Foster) thought he might get called up to the NFL," Carson said. "And so I said, 'Well, do you have anybody that can help out if you have to go?’"
That conversation brought two former college rivals and pro teammates back together again.
"I was working out at Exos (gym) with D.J. Foster," said Scooby Wright III, a former University of Arizona All-American linebacker. "And we were talking about doing some stuff (together). And I had (just) got back from Pac-12 Media Day, and I was looking to get into TV, more in that field."
Foster, who went on to star at running back and wide receiver for Arizona State, remembered his conversation with Wright.
"It seemed like a perfect fit," Foster said. "So I presented him the opportunity."
Carson added, "That’s how the team of D.J. and Scooby was born, and I love it because it’s ASU, U of A, offense, defense. I love it. It’s a great combination."
Foster now gets to report from the sidelines on the scene he once dominated. In high school, Foster was a four-star recruit, and he still has the Arizona state record across all conferences for most rushing touchdowns in a single game (10 in a playoff game against Peoria Sunrise Mountain in 2011) and most rushing touchdowns in a season (54 in 2011). He helped lead Saguaro to Class 4A state championship victories in 2010 and 2011.
"When I’m out here interviewing kids after the game, I think about my time during my Friday nights and my high school career," Foster said. "It’s interesting to be on the other side, but it’s fun. It’s exciting.
"I think that’s what I get my passion from because I know how much that meant to me during my time and having those opportunities to play in front of a TV, and my friends and family at home (being) able to watch me. So, to be able to provide that same kind of experience for some of these kids, it’s really an honor."
Wright, on the other hand, was an undersized linebacker from a smaller high school, Cardinal Newman in Sonoma County, California. As his Twitter handle — @TwoStarScoob — indicates, Wright was not a well-known prospect. He had to persistently send his film out to colleges, despite some impressive numbers in high school and an intense work ethic.
Arizona’s coaching staff made an offer in the summer after his junior year based on the film alone. Wright committed to the Wildcats soon after, fearing he would lose the offer if he didn’t accept right away.
Both players became fan favorites.
Foster played both running back and wide receiver at ASU and finished his Sun Devil career in 2015 with 4,813 scrimmage yards and 32 total touchdowns and was a two-time All-Pac-12 honoree. Wright wrapped up his Wildcat career at the same time as Foster after playing three years for Arizona and giving fans a show night in and night out.
During his sophomore 2014 season, Wright was named the Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year and awarded the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Rotary Lombardi Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award, all given annually to the top defensive player in the nation, after posting 164 total tackles, 31 tackles for loss, 15 sacks and five forced fumbles.
"He was very similar to me," Foster said. "We didn’t talk a lot on the field, so I never really had a reason to not like him. I didn’t like him because of the school he went to, and he was a heck of a player … As a competitor, the way he competed, I mean, I had nothing but respect for him."
Wright and Foster played each other head-to-head twice for the Territorial Cup and split the games. In a 58-21 2013 victory for then-No. 13 ASU, Foster had 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
In a 2014 matchup, Wright got the best of Foster. The then-No. 12 Wildcats beat the No. 13 Sun Devils 42-35 to advance to the Pac-12 championship game behind Wright’s 13 total tackles (five for loss) and two sacks. The Wildcats held Foster to only 34 yards on the ground, but he finished with 60 yards receiving.
"I remember the biggest thing with D.J. was trying to limit his explosive plays because he can come at you from the backfield, receiver just anywhere on the field," Wright said. "So that was one of the biggest things — I just remember ‘limit his explosive plays.’"
After an injury-riddled junior season, Wright declared for the 2016 NFL Draft. Despite some early optimism that he could be a lower round draft pick, Wright, as his Instagram username — @SeventhRoundScoob — suggests, fell all the way to pick 250, where he was selected by the Cleveland Browns. Foster went undrafted in the same draft and signed with the New England Patriots.
Wright was waived by the Browns before playing a snap and signed with the Cardinals during the 2016-17 season. Foster played three games for the Patriots in 2016-17 and won a Super Bowl ring at the end of that season.
"On paper, obviously, the Super Bowl is pretty cool," Foster said of his best experiences over his football career. "But I think, and we talked about this quite often coming back to the high school level (with GameTime on Yurview), my years in high school being a part of championship-winning teams, to do it in front of my community, my friends and my family and with some of my best friends that are still friends to this day — I think those are kind of the greatest memories that I have made over my football career."
At the beginning of the 2017-18 season, Foster was signed by the Cardinals off the Patriots practice squad. He played alongside Wright on special teams.
The former rivals became friends.
"We sat next to each other in meetings and stuff and used to always give each other a little crap here and there about the U of A-ASU thing," Wright said. "So that was good, he’s a good guy, and I’m glad we got to know each other on a different level."
Wright played for the Cardinals until 2018, appearing in 13 games. Foster played 23 games, parting ways with the team in 2020.
After the Cardinals, Wright would stay in Phoenix and play seven games for the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) in the league’s only season in 2019. He was added to the New England Patriots’ preseason roster later that year, but was cut before the season started.
Wright’s next step in his football career was playing for the DC Defenders in the XFL before the season was shut down in 2020. After that, among a variety of other things, he spent two years training to be a firefighter.
Then, earlier this year, Wright accepted an invitation to play in the United States Football League and quickly became a star for the eventual champion Birmingham Stallions. Rocking a mullet, he dubbed himself "SHARKDAWG" and the name stuck. Wright lived up to it with a game-sealing pick-six in the championship game for the Stallions.
Wright said that his USFL stardom was a culmination of "just coming back to the game and having a totally new respect for it. Just playing for the true fun of it again."
Wright has built a career for himself outside of football, too. He said he trains at martial arts every day and has done Muay Thai since he was 21 and jujitsu since he was 25. He revealed that he even has a WWE tryout at the end of this month, but said he had been planning to get his EMT certification soon so that he could graduate from the Fire Academy.
He also has not ruled out a return to the USFL in 2023.
"I’m still trying to figure out my options and figure out really what I want to do for the next five years and go from there," Wright said.
Foster said he is still training and in shape to play football, but added, "I’m kind of transitioning my mind to closing that chapter."
However, he said, "I’ve never tried to say never" if an NFL or other football opportunity were to present itself.
"I’m relaxing, enjoying this process though," Foster said. "My body feels happy as well."
Foster also is trying to figure out whether he wants to continue on the media side, which allows him to continue to be around a sport that has brought him so much.
"I absolutely love this game. I mean, I’ve been doing this since I could walk," he said. "Every life experience that I’ve pretty much had throughout my 29 years of living on this earth has been football-related. The people I’ve met, the relationships that I’ve built, that’s what I care about.
"And still being around football, even though I’m not on the field, I’m still a part of a team. Being here with the GameTime crew, it’s a family. We communicate weekly, and have those same relationships where you still feel that team team effort, that team camaraderie. So that’s what I appreciate."
For now, Foster’s path has crossed once again with Wright, and they get to work together in a place they call home.
"I keep finding my way back (to Arizona)," Foster said. With four years in the Valley playing high school football, then four more at ASU and four later with the Cardinals, "pretty much Boston and Toronto were kind of my two times to get away from home," he said.
Wright might not have grown up in Arizona like Foster, but he’s every bit as attached now.
Because of his time with the Wildcats, Cardinals and Hotshots, Wright said, "Arizona has always felt like home. I have a lot of friends out here and stuff, so it’s nice to always be back."
Carson has been impressed with her sideline reporters so far early on in their media careers. "They’re learning and they’re doing great," she said. "They’re naturals, but it’s because they love football. Their passion comes across in what they’re doing."
Wright said his best experience so far with GameTime on Yurview has been "just sharing my side of the game from a football player standpoint that not a lot of people can see as a player. You can see the coverages, you can see what fronts they’re in, you can really see the ins and outs of what they’re trying to do as an opponent."
There is also a learning curve that comes with the media side.
"It is a different process," Foster said. "As a player, everything’s coming to you, you get to create. When you’re on the journalism side, you got to make those moments for that player, pull those deep questions out of an athlete. That’s what makes a great journalist, I think, to get those ‘power lines.’ Those were what you kind of reach for, and that’s what I’m kind of learning."
Wright and Foster have been working high school games for GameTime on Yurview with play-by-play broadcaster Chris Harris and analyst Dale Hellestrae, a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys, since the beginning of September. The former Pac-12 rivals do a pre-kickoff appearance, halftime interviews with each coach and a halftime segment and postgame show.
"When you hear those loud collisions, when you hear coaches yelling, there’s stuff that you become accustomed to as you kind of grow through football, and you miss it," Foster said. "But that’s why being on this side, doing this journalism and broadcasting and being part of GameTime has been great because I still get to have that connection with football."