THEY DIDN'T THINK THE KID WOULD MAKE IT IN BIG-TIME COLLEGE FOOTBALL. "TOO SMALL" was the prognosis delivered to Roger Foltz by the Big 12 coaches who thought his son Blaize, then a junior at central Kansas's Rose Hill High, couldn't cut it in their conference. They'd stop by the school, where Roger is a counselor, to glad-hand and say how much they liked the highlight reel he'd sent of Blaize bulldozing kids across the Sunflower State. But when they'd do the old eyeball test, not even a 6' 3" 250-pounder could pass as having potential for the Big 12's mammoth offensive lines. It fell to the father to break the news to the son. "All these people believe you're a great player," Roger told Blaize. "You are a great player. We're gonna keep working, and we can't worry about that stuff. It's out of our hands."
Surely there are sad versions of this tale scattered across the country, but just a glance at Blaize Foltz in 2012 suggests a happier ending. Now 6' 4" and 310 pounds, the kid has become a beast of a right guard, anchoring the line for a team that finished 2011 ranked 14th nationally—higher than all but two Big 12 schools. Last season, as a junior, he was the lone nonsenior on the first-team All--Mountain West offensive line.
Foltz got there because of what was in his and his father's hands: how much time and effort he could put into becoming the biggest and best lineman possible. Roger, an offensive lineman at Wake Forest in the 1980s and Rose Hill's O-line coach, had first seen his oldest son as a potential protégé when he grew six inches between the eighth and 10th grades. And considering the family history—Roger had been a late bloomer, and one great-uncle stood 6' 9"—Roger knew his son's body was an unfinished product. As a freshman at Rose Hill, Blaize played offensive line and linebacker (he switched to the D-line as a sophomore), picking up his new responsibilities quickly after years spent serving as his father's ball boy and listening to him bark orders in the coach's box during games. In the spring Blaize played baseball and followed up practice with tutoring sessions from Roger on things such as the importance of a blocker's first three steps and how to use his inside leg to prevent a defender from rushing past, heeding his father's central advice: "Be a bruiser."
But bruisers must be built, and so Roger drew from his own experience and the advice of friends who played in the NFL to implement a regimented, high-protein diet for his 190-pound freshman son. He kept turkey sandwiches in the faculty lounge at school and used the blender there to mix protein shakes, which Blaize augmented with 2 a.m. peanut butter sandwiches. "He got on that program and followed it to the letter," Roger says. The result—100 pounds and his choice of a handful of FBS schools later—was Rose Hill's first-ever Division I scholarship athlete.
Blaize redshirted his freshman year at TCU but made two starts for an injured teammate in 2009 before tearing his ACL five games into his junior year. He was back—and even stronger—for spring ball last season. Now he's a senior weight-room leader, shouting out lines from Tommy Boy between monstrous bench presses of 580 pounds and squats of 800. He has to fight to keep his weight down, eating fish and avoiding Whataburger and Dr Pepper. And beginning this fall, he's a Big 12 guard after all, the significance of which is not lost on a player who has long fed off doubts. "A lot of people told me I can't do stuff," Foltz says. "I just kind of use it as my fuel." It's driven him to the top.