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NFL prospect D’Onta Foreman has been defying expectations his entire life

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The top running back in college football toted something much heavier than a pigskin during the 2016 season.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

You probably thought you knew former Texas Longhorns running back D’Onta Foreman.

If you’ve been paying attention, you knew about the recruiting snub in high school, with Rivals ranking him as a two-star prospect and few schools competing for his services, all while coveting his twin brother Armanti, a standout wide receiver at Texas City.

You probably knew that when former head coach Mack Brown invited the Foremans into his office, he offered Armanti and barely paid attention to D’Onta.

You probably knew that Brown told D’Onta that he would need to run a 4.4 40-yard dash at a Texas summer camp in order to earn his offer. You don’t even have to guess whether Foreman pulled off that impressive feat.

You definitely knew about the Texas-sized chip on Foreman’s shoulder that pushed him to run for more than 2,000 yards last season, despite the lack of a back up for most of the year and the fact that he was playing through a broken hand without telling anyone.

But you didn’t really know what was happening in the head and life of D’Onta Foreman, because he wanted it that way.

For a guy who seemingly wore his heart on his sleeve when it came to overcoming his doubters, Foreman wanted to keep his biggest, most important story between himself and his family.

“It was tough,” Foreman told NFL.com’s Andrea Kramer of his incredible season on the gridiron. “It was so hard to keep stuff a secret.”

The big secret?

Foreman’s son, D’Onta Jr., was born premature — he was 15 ounces, or roughly the weight of a football, when he was delivered by D’Onta’s girlfriend in Texas City when she was only 23 weeks pregnant.

“I didn’t want people feeling sorry for me,” Foreman explained. “I just wanted to go out there and compete and I’d give it my all.”

And so he did, carrying a much bigger burden than the weight of all those doubters as his tiny son fought for his life.

Foreman didn’t tell anyone about his private struggle, and no one really guessed that was why he would mimic the motion of rocking a baby after he scored touchdowns.

“I always dreamed of having a boy and naming him after me and, you know, just seeing him grow.”

The swings were extreme — for a long stretch, the doctors thought he was stable. Foreman called his son a fighter, just like his father, who was in the midst of an all-time great season for a Longhorns running back.

D’Onta Jr. was born in the middle of September and spent 50 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, then developed an intestinal infection before the game between Texas and Texas Tech in early November.

Doctors called Foreman with the news that no father — or mother — ever wants to hear. The doctors didn’t expect his son to make it.

Faced with a difficult decision, Foreman decided to do what he does best, to show up for his team and his head coach. The team was battling for a bowl berth while Charlie Strong battled for his job.

In the midst of incredible adversity, Foreman played the best game of his life, carrying the ball 33 times for 341 yards and three touchdowns.

In a decisive stretch of the fourth quarter, Foreman scored a 74-yard touchdown to stretch the Texas lead to two touchdowns despite losing a shoe near the line of scrimmage.

“It was just something about that game, it was like... ‘I’m doing it for my son. I’m leaving it all out here.’’

After making the trip from Lubbock back to Austin, the Foreman brothers took another, more difficult journey — to Texas City to try to see D’Onta Jr.

On the way, D’Onta called his mother, Shawna, asking her what was going on.

It was too late — she delivered the heartbreaking news that his son had recently passed.

“I, still to this day have no idea how he was able to shoulder all those... all the things that was going on,” said former running backs coach Anthony Johnson.

Now headed to the NFL, with his professional future in front of him, Foreman found out that he’s going to be a father again — his girlfriend Carissa is pregnant.

“I’m excited, but I’m worried,” Foreman said. “I’m worried about not having to go through that same situation again.”

Faced with those justifiable concerns, Foreman is intent on doing what he’s always done — making the Foreman name as big as it can be. For his parents, for his twin brother, for D’Onta Jr., and his for unborn child.

The expected due date for that child?

The same day that D’Onta Jr. was born.