"Honestly, I don't know if this will throw us into an NCAA investigation, but my senior year I was getting money on the side," Foster says in the EPIX documentary. "I really didn't have any money. I had to either pay the rent or buy some food. I remember the feeling, like, 'Man, be careful,' but there's nothing wrong with it. You're not going to convince me that there is something wrong with it."
Sports Illustrated first reported Foster's comments in the documentary, "Schooled: The Price of College Sports."
Foster, who played for the Volunteers from 2005-08, expanded on his comments Friday after the Texans' practice.
"I feel very strong about the injustice the NCAA has been doing for years," Foster said. That's why I said what I said. I'm not trying to throw anyone under the bus or anything like that. ... I feel like I shouldn't have to run from the NCAA anymore. They're like these big bullies. I'm not scared of them."
Andrew Muscato, a producer of the documentary, said Foster didn't specify how much money he received or who paid him during the four-hour interview in February.
Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said in a statement released by the university Friday that, "We can't speak to something that allegedly happened a long time ago."
Hart said what the university can "say is that the values and priorities of our athletic department and football program are aligned, and the constant education of our student-athletes regarding the rules and the consequences of their choices is of the highest priority."
In response to an email about Foster's comments, NCAA spokeswoman Emily Potter said that "I can't speak to a specific situation."
The Foster report comes one week after Yahoo Sports reported that a runner for agents provided illegal benefits to Tennessee defensive lineman Maurice Couch and former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray as well as former Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, former Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and former Mississippi State wide receiver Chad Bumphis. Couch has been ruled ineligible while the school investigates those allegations.
Tennessee is on probation through Aug. 23, 2015, for previous violations.
The probation was extended by two years last November after the NCAA ruled former assistant Willie Mack Garza provided impermissible travel and lodging for an unofficial visit by prospect Lache Seastrunk, who eventually signed with Oregon and has since transferred to Baylor. Garza worked on the staff of former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, who's now at Southern California.
Foster said Friday the money he received didn't come from a coach.
A phone call Friday to Phillip Fulmer, the Tennessee coach during Foster's college career, wasn't immediately returned.
"Side people always offer you money all the time, just random people usually. 'Can I take care of you?' " Foster said Friday. "It happens all the time. When you're at college and your family doesn't make a lot of money, it's hard to make ends meet. . Toward the end of the month, you run out every month. It's a problem all across America. It's just when you play top-tier Division I football, there's people that are willing to help you out. I got helped out."
In the clip of the documentary that appeared on Sports Illustrated's website, Foster says he once complained to a coach about how he had no food or money, and that the coach responded by giving about 50 tacos to him and a handful of friends.
Muscato said the documentary is an examination of college sports through the scope of athletes' rights.
"They have us feeling like that's wrong (to get paid)," Foster said Friday. "It's not wrong. That's how I keep my lights on now and there's nothing wrong with it. But they have us feeling like it's OK to sanction 18-year-old kids because they received money for playing a sport. And they try to disguise it under the rule of amateurism. And if you watch the documentary . it's just been a big charade for years. And it's about time for it to come to an end."
In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive criticized the NCAA rules regarding agents and said conferences that produce plenty of NFL prospects should have the authority to create their own regulations to curb such problems.
"I feel like the current NCAA rules and regulations are part of the problem, they're not part of the solution," Slive said.