Clemson’s Justin Foster, never fully recovered from COVID-19, gives up football

Clemson defensive end Justin Foster, who missed the 2020 season because of COVID-19 and related illness, won’t return to football.

Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Wednesday before the start of spring practice that Foster decided to give up the sport after graduating in December. Foster contracted the coronavirus last summer and never fully recovered.

“He had a very tough fall,” Swinney said. “COVID was a very tough thing for him. Justin is a guy who has always battled asthma and allergies. He’s always had a challenge with that. When he got COVID last summer, that really set him back. He just wasn’t able to do what he needed to do. He’s way better than he was back in August. But he’s still kind of working through that.”

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Foster later posted a message to social media.

“Today is a difficult day for me,” he wrote on Twitter. “But it is also a day of reflection and gratitude. With sadness but no regret, I have decided it is in my best interest to call it a career and hang up football.

“I was born with asthma and allergies that, when active, affect my ability to breathe normally. The combination of those conditions, along with contracting COVID, made for a severe difficulty to perform. While my situation has improved, I am not in a position, nor do I see that position soon, to step back on the field. After consulting with multiple medical professionals, my focus is more so on recovering for the long term.”

Foster (6-foot-2, 275 pounds) was honorable mention All-ACC in 2019 and was considered an NFL prospect. He is a former standout at Crest High School in Shelby, North Carolina, where he was considered by ESPN the fifth-best national prospect at defensive end in his class

“I think he could play at the next level,” Swinney said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

Foster played 39 games at Clemson with 13 starts, recording 66 tackles, 17.5 for loss, and making seven sacks. He earned a degree in construction science and management. Swinney said there no changing the mind of Foster, who already has top-notch job offers outside of football.

“I checked his oil. I tried to talk him out of it,” Swinney said. “He’s ready to move on. He’s got some really, really good and special career work opportunities that he is really interested in and wants to get started on.”

Defensive end Xavier Thomas tested positive for COVID-19 in April and missed the early part of the season.

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