Clemson DE Justin Foster retires from football after issues with asthma, COVID-19

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Clemson defensive end Justin Foster announced Wednesday that he will no longer be playing football.

Foster, a senior who earned honorable mention All-ACC honors in 2019, said in a statement posted on Twitter that a combination of asthma, allergies and COVID-19 created “severe difficulty” for him to engage in physical activities. Foster did not play at all during the 2020 season after contracting COVID-19 and dealing with lingering symptoms of the virus.

“While my situation has improved, I am not in a position to step back on the field. After consulting multiple medical professionals, my focus is more so on recovering for the long term,” Foster wrote. “This decision came after months of recovery and treatment, which required asking a lot of difficult decisions regarding my future.”

Foster wrote that he remains on the road to recovery, but is “confident” that he will recover fully.

Ahead of the beginning of spring practice, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney spoke with reporters and said that Foster is feeling much better than he did in the fall. Swinney acknowledged that things were “very tough” for Foster.

“He had a very tough fall. COVID was a very tough thing for him. Justin has always battled asthma and allergies. He’s always had challenges with that. But when he got COVID last summer, that really set him back,” Swinney said. “He’s way better than he was back in August but he’s still working through that.”

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 28: Ohio State Buckeyes running back J.K. Dobbins (2) gets wrapped up Clemson Tigers defensive end Justin Foster (35) during the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl college football game between the Clemson Tigers and the Ohio State Buckeyes on December 28, 2019 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. (Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Clemson Tigers defensive end Justin Foster had 41 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2019. (Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Swinney was hopeful Foster could return to the field, admitting that he “tried to talk him out of it.” But Foster has some career opportunities available outside of football that he is interested in pursuing.

“He’s a brilliant young man. He’s incredibly smart. He has a lot of interests and he’s very, very talented. He’s got a great career ahead of him,” Swinney said. “He knows exactly what he wants to do and he’s got a unique opportunity. He loves football, but he really wants to take this next step and get started with this part of his life and his work career.”

Foster was expected to be a key contributor for the Tigers in 2020. In 2019, Foster registered 41 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Overall in his Clemson career, Foster appeared in 39 games with 13 starts and accumulated 66 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

Foster wasn’t the only Clemson defensive lineman to miss extensive time after contracting COVID-19. Like Foster, Xavier Thomas’ symptoms lingered for months. He missed preseason practice and was limited to just seven games.

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