Two of the Cherokee County products who had successful collegiate careers before moving on to the professional ranks — Jayson Foster and Bruce Miller — say they are proud of where they come from, and even more proud to see other athletes following in their steps.
Foster, a product of Cherokee High School who went on to a successful career at Georgia Southern, signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and also spent time in the training camps of the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. He most recently spent time with the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the United Football League.
The 5-foot-7 Foster, who was a wide receiver and later quarterback during his time at Cherokee, almost didn’t play football — not only because he was small, but also because of a knee injury he suffered during his freshman year.
Foster said the football culture was quite different when he came out of the county nearly 10 years ago.
“It’s was a county overlooked,” he said. “When Kurtis (Koester) and coach (Ed) Koester came through, they gave it a new perspective. We saw that guys from this part could make it.”
Kuris Koester set several Cherokee County passing records during his three-year career as a Warrior, playing for his father, Ed.
“Coach Koester was doing things to help the kids get into college and, basically, that is when it started being a foundation,” said Foster, who became a quarterback when Koester’s successor at Cherokee, Brian Dameron, installed the option offense Foster later played at Georgia Southern. “It gave us inspiration that we could go to another level. That’s all the more true for kids coming out of Cherokee County today.”
In addition to Foster’s preseason experience in the NFL, three other Cherokee alumni have played in the league, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.
Defensive lineman Charles Martin spent four seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons from 1984-88. Tommy Pharr returned punts for the Buffalo Bills in 1970, and Dan Rosado was a center for the San Diego Chargers from 1987-88.
Miller played defensive end at Central Florida and is now a fullback for the San Francisco 49ers, but he got his start playing for the South Cherokee Recreation Association Redskins and at Woodstock High School.
When asked if he was proud of where he comes from, Miller was firm.
“Of course I am,” he said.
Miller said that, if he were talking to players at his alma mater today, he would encourage them to work hard and follow their dreams. After all, any of them could make it to the pros like he did.
“It’s possible,” Miller said. “There are a lot of good athletes coming out of here. You just have to be dedicated.”
Miller isn’t the only Cherokee County native active in the NFL. Former Etowah star Buster Skrine, after a four-year college career at Chattanooga, recently completed his second season as a cornerback for the Cleveland Browns.
Foster said he cheers for guys like Miller and Skrine.
“Coming from our area, the small schools in metro-Atlanta like Cherokee County, it shows these players can still make it,” Foster said. “For a while, I don’t think anyone considered Cherokee County a football spot, but now we have teams going to the playoffs, guys making NFL rosters, so it’s definitely a big adjustment and something I look forward to seeing more off.
Foster said it shows the youth in the county that they can make it big.
“Stick with it,” he said. “You never know where you can end up. I never dreamed of sniffing an NFL roster or practice squad, but I stuck with football. Just keep doing what you are good out and you can go far.”
Miller said he has a lot of fun looking back on the memories from Cherokee County.
“It took a lot of hard work and effort, but it all started at Woodstock,” he said. “You keep working and keep grinding.