Notre Dame RB Tarean Folston: 'I've always been a baller'

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Every college football program in Florida recruited Tarean Folston out of high school.

Except Miami.

“They did what they had to do,” Notre Dame’s senior running back said with a shrug on Wednesday. “At the end of the day, I probably wouldn’t have went there anyway.”

Despite the recruiting snub, Folston — a consensus four-star prospect when he graduated from Cocoa High School in Cocoa, Fla., in 2013 — holds no ill will towards the 4-3 Hurricanes, who will make landfall in South Bend on Saturday afternoon.

In fact, Notre Dame’s 5-foot-10, 214-pound running back seems to hold no ill will at all — not even after he tore his ACL on the third carry of the 2015 season, or sat out two more games this fall with an ankle sprain. Not after the Irish stumbled out to a 2-5 start, either.

“I’m excited just to play football, to be honest,” a visibly cheery Folston said with a grin. “I just love the sport. If it’s Miami, Virginia, Stanford, anybody, I’m just excited to play.

“If you were to interview me last week, I would have had the same enthusiasm. I’m just excited to play.”

That enthusiasm was evident in Notre Dame’s 17-10 loss to Stanford, as a returning Folston rushed for 49 yards on eight carries. During the lone Irish touchdown drive, he touched the ball on four consecutive plays, gaining 34 yards in the process.

He balled, because that’s what ballers do.

“I’ve always been a baller,” Folston said without even a hint of sarcasm. “I’m not trying to be big-headed or anything, but it comes naturally. Some things just come naturally to some people.”

While Folston’s vision may come naturally, his patience in allowing blocks to develop has progressed throughout his career.

“You know, he's a vision runner,” head coach Brian Kelly said. “First of all, he has the patience to allow the offensive line to do their job. Both of those guys (sophomore running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams) are physical runners that sometimes want to create the hole. Tarean is going to wait for it to develop, and he runs with great vision.

“He's going to allow the play to develop. That's a learned ability. You’ve got to take a lot of reps. You’ve got to be in there. You’ve got to see a lot of things. You've got to trust what's happening in front of you.”

And then, in Folston’s mind, you’ve got to be willing to deliver a blow.

“You have to hit them in the mouth, like anybody else,” Folston said of Miami’s highly touted defense, which leads the country with 71 tackles for loss and 10.1 per game. “We’re just going to come out and play football like we know how.

“My motto is, ‘Hit ‘em in the mouth, and they’re going to fold up.’ Being from Florida, that’s something I live by.”

That motto carried Folston to South Bend (not Miami), and it has allowed him to run for 1,573 yards and 10 touchdowns in 31 career games.

He has enjoyed every one of them.

“If you’re not excited to play football, then why play it?” said Folston, still decked out in his practice uniform. “You’ve got to love what you’re doing. It’s a physical game, but at the end of the day, if you love it, it’s just natural. It’s fun to you all the time.”

It will be fun again on Saturday — even if Folston holds no resentment towards Miami or appreciation for its suddenly unearthed rivalry with Notre Dame.

“I couldn’t even lie to you,” Folston said. “I don’t know too much about the history (between Notre Dame and Miami), but I feel like we’re going to be a part of that history come Saturday.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

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Notre Dame’s Tarean Folston (25) picks up yards during the Notre Dame-Stanford NCAA college football game Saturday, October 15, 2016, inside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN