Former UI football player dies in police custody, spurs investigation, national attention


Photo Courtesy of Rob Carr/Getty Images/TNS

Former University varsity football player Glenn Foster Jr. (97) takes the field before the start of the game against the New England Patriots on Oct. 13, 2013, in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Foster passed away on Dec. 6 in police custody after a mental health emergency.

By Farrah Anderson, Assistant Investigative News and Longform Editor

On Dec. 6, former University varsity football player Glenn Foster Jr. died in police custody, according to an announcement released by the University.

After being arrested for allegedly driving over the speed limit in rural Alabama, Foster, who was 31, got into a fight with another inmate according to authorities.

Foster’s parents said their son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and may have been having a manic episode during the time of his arrest, according to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.

And there are concerns that Foster’s mental health issues weren’t handled properly while he was in police custody, his parents said in the same statement.

“We want justice for our son,” said Glenn Foster Sr., Foster’s father. “It’s unfair. It’s inhumane. It’s just not right.”

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Foster graduated from the University in 2012 where he majored in sociology in addition to playing for the school’s football team. After graduation, he played in the National Football League for the New Orleans Saints for two seasons.

An investigation has been opened into Foster’s death. 

Kent Brown, a spokesperson for University of Illinois football, said everyone in the county will be looking for answers as more information is released. 

“Anytime that there’s an involvement between a young Black man and the police that goes the wrong way, we’re all interested in what exactly happened there,” Brown said. 

Foster was not being considered to play in the NFL during most of the time he was at the University, Brown said.

But Brown said Foster’s standout performance working out in front of scouts during his senior year completely changed his prospects of playing professionally. 

After that day’s performance, Brown said he was given the opportunity to play for the NFL – the dream of almost every football player.

“He took advantage of that one opportunity to do the very best he could and put a lot of effort into it,” Brown said. 

Foster left a lasting impact on the University community, said Kam Buckner, Illinois state representative and former University football player. 

Buckner, who said he met Foster when he was a high school recruit from Mount Carmel High School in Chicago, said they had a lot in common. Buckner and Foster were both defensive linemen at the University who grew up on the south side of Chicago. 

“He was a Chicago guy who decided, when he could have gone to a bunch of different places for college, to stay home and give back to the state that gave so much to him,” Buckner said.

As more information starts to be released about Foster and how he died, Buckner said he will be anxious to learn exactly what happened while he was in police custody. 

Getting answers to his family and remembering his life and legacy are the most important things for the University community moving forward, Buckner said. 

“I want to make sure that people remember (Foster) for being a person who he was — a gentle giant (and) a person who cared about people,” Buckner said. “(I want) to elevate this conversation to make sure that his parents, his wife and his daughters get the answers that they deserve.”

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