OCTOBER 18, 1976
As one of the greatest running backs in Minnesota Vikings history, Chuck Foreman rarely shied away from the spotlight in the 1970s, turning down interviews about as often as he was taken down in the open field. But two years ago, in the lonely aftermath of what he calls the "toughest period of my life," Foreman had no desire to show his face. In February 2000 he was charged in connection with a 1995 scheme to defraud mortgage companies and later admitted that he had used falsified documents to obtain two loans totaling $157,800. With his inglorious return to the headlines, Foreman withdrew from the community and seldom left his home.
"What I did was a mistake. I should have used better judgment," says Foreman, who assisted prosecutors in their investigation of similar real estate cases, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in March 2000 and was sentenced to three years' probation in February 2001. "It was embarrassing to read about myself like that."
Foreman says he has put his missteps behind him and feels he is redeeming himself by showing his face again—at middle schools throughout Minnesota. Through Sound Advice for Life, a program he started in 1990 and has taken a greater interest in recently, the 52-year-old Foreman lectures students about everything, from self-confidence to learning from their mistakes. Last year he visited up to two dozen schools a month. "When you talk to young people, they hold on to everything," says Foreman. "I'm hoping that my experiences can teach them something."
Most of those who hear Foreman speak weren't yet born when he was tormenting NFL defenses for seven seasons in Minnesota. A back with speed and power, he had three straight 1,000-yard seasons, was an All-Pro five times and was the team's all-time leading rusher (5,879) until Robert Smith passed him in 2000. The combination of Foreman's rushing and Fran Tarkenton's passing helped the Vikings go to three Super Bowls. Football remains a big part of Foreman's life: His son Jay is a linebacker for the Houston Texans. "He's a throwback" says Foreman, who raised Jay, 26, as a single parent and also has two other children—Anthony, 13, and Andrea, 9—from another relationship. "Like me, he never celebrates much or talks much on the field. He just focuses on doing his job."
After retiring in 1983 Foreman had his hand in a number of business ventures—the most significant, a Twin Cities-based trucking company that dissolved in '94. Now he spends as many as five days a week on the road, if not speaking at schools then making appearances at retail stores and card shows. At one stop last week Foreman told 230 seventh-graders, "People make mistakes all the time. I've made plenty. You just have to forget about what's gone wrong and focus on what right you can do." That's a familiar theme for Foreman.