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Southern safety Chase Foster (23) celebrates after interception a pass in the first quarter of Southern's 34-7 win on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2021, at Simmons Bank Field in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. (Photo by Tommy Metthe)

Southern safety Chase Foster can’t wait for someone to doubt him. He can almost feel it before someone speaks it after spotting the 5-foot-7, 167-pound dynamo in a football uniform.

The list is long and goes back to Foster’s high school days at Southern Lab, and probably even before that.

Kittens coach Darrel Asberry arrived before Foster’s senior year and made the common assumption that was quickly discarded.

“I asked one of the coaches when I got here, ‘Who’s that guy?’” Asberry said of Foster. “He said, ‘You’re going to be surprised.’ He really grabbed my attention, and I’m proud of the success he’s having. I can tell you this, I miss him.”

Foster has been grabbing attention with his play, if not his physique. On Saturday he was grabbing interceptions, too, a school-record three of them in Southern’s 34-7 victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Being one of the smallest players on the field never has been an issue for Foster. The chip rests proudly on his shoulder and bolsters his game.

“I know my size factors in making other teams think, ‘Oh we’re going to pick on this guy, he’s small,’” Foster said. “I just make sure I go out and do my assignment. It shows size doesn’t matter.”

Not only does size not matter, it fuels Foster’s fire. Southern coach Jason Rollins can attest.

“He’ll always tell you he’s like that,” Rollins said. “He carries it around. He’s got the ultimate ‘little man’ syndrome. He doesn’t know he’s 5-7; in his mind he’s 6-6, and he plays like that.”

Then Southern secondary coach Trei Oliver learned that quickly after persuading Foster to walk on even after Foster missed the deadline in 2017. A year and a half later, Foster received a scholarship and earned a starting job for the 2018 season when he was the Jaguars’ third-leading tackler with 48. He added two sacks, five pass breakups, a forced fumble and a recovery.

Foster lost his starting job in 2019 but still played in all 12 games and had 25 tackles. He regained his starting job for the spring season and scored Southern’s first TD on an interception return in the season opener. He finished with 20 tackles and five pass breakups in five games.

Now one of the defensive leaders, he’s second only to linebacker Ray Anderson in tackles, one behind Anderson’s 28. Foster also has two breakups with his three picks. He has been banged up, but his toughness gets him back on the field.

The toughness isn’t only physical. Foster is praised by Rollins for his knowledge and dedication to studying tape.

“Breaking down film, I look at the little things, the details, things that may give me the upper hand or a better step on plays,” he said. “Having a chip on my shoulder makes me work hard. Watching film gives me extra stuff to take into the game.”

There may be a future in football for Foster after the pads come off for good. His understanding of the game gives him a level of insight akin to a coach. His leadership is another strength that teammates rally around.

“They come in all shapes and sizes,” Rollins said. “The first thing you say is ‘wow.’ Then you watch him play and say, ‘I get it now.’ The size will fool you. He’s extremely intelligent. He knows where the ball is going before the snap. He studies film like a coach so he has a great understanding of what the opponent is trying to do. He knows where he should be. It gives him the extra step in anticipation. It’s unbelievable.”

Making people believe is something Foster has never had trouble doing.