Justin Foster Rejoining Clemson After Previously Ending Career Due to COVID-19

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVMay 5, 2021

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 09: Jordan Houston #20 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack is hit by Justin Foster #35 of the Clemson Tigers during their game at Carter-Finley Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Justin Foster is returning to Clemson. 

The defensive end, who gave up football last year after developing long-haul syndrome following a COVID-19 diagnosis, has decided to rejoin the Tigers for his final year of eligibility in the 2021 season. 

Clemson Football @ClemsonFB

🚨 Welcome back, 35. 🚨<br><br>With encouragement from his doctor, DE Justin Foster has informed Clemson of his intention to return for the 2021 season.<br><br>📰: https://t.co/z8o8DmsTFp pic.twitter.com/lWxIli6uP0

"[Head coach Dabo Swinney] said if you're feeling better, even if you're not 100 percent, you can start working with the team and we'll build you up from there," he told ESPN's T.J. Quinn. "He said, 'You don't have to play 60 snaps a game; you'll just do what you can do.'"

"It's not often you get a call from a great player that you think is gone and he says he's coming back, so just a great thing," Swinney added in a statement. "First of all, just really excited for Justin that he is feeling better with his health and his ability to train like he wants to train. And it's great for Clemson because that gives us seven guys that have started back on our defensive line."

Foster had COVID-19 in June and initially only had mild symptoms, though in the months that followed he dealt with "chronic fatigue and had debilitating breathing problems when he attempted to work out," per Quinn. 

While Foster had asthma and allergies, both had been manageable up to that point. After his coronavirus diagnosis, however, that changed.

"Every day you wake up wheezing and you wake up tired and you just think this is never going to get better," he said.

Foster missed the 2020 season and announced in February that he was calling it quits on football. But as his condition improved, he had second thoughts. 

"I was totally against everything with football. I just didn't want to be around it," he said Wednesday. "I know I was at peace with [not playing], but as I was getting better, I knew if I did get better in the next couple of months there would be some regret if I didn't at least attempt it."

For Foster, things began to turn after he received the COVID-19 vaccine. He also went to the Duke University post-COVID practice in April where he received treatment and medication for his long-haul syndrome.  

“The doctor was positive on me recovering in the near future," Turner noted in the team's statement. "In the next month or two, she thought I’d recover enough to compete at the college level, and she motivated me and said that if I wanted to play again, she’d encourage me to and support me and she would do the best she could to get me back healthy. She believed that I will be healthy and, for me, that was a big stepping stone."

In his first three seasons with the team (2017-19), Foster posted 60 tackles (18.5 for loss), seven sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. If he's able to return to full health, his return should provide a major boost for Clemson's defense.

And it may also be the continuation of a potentially long football career for Foster, who was considered an NFL prospect before his condition.