CLEMSON, S.C. — Head Coach Dabo Swinney and Clemson Football announced today that defensive end Justin Foster has indicated his intention to return to Clemson for the 2021 season.
Foster had previously announced his intention to step away from football on Feb. 24 following complications related to asthma and COVID-19. Earlier this week, he informed Clemson coaches of his intent to return to the team and resume training for the upcoming season.
“For me, the decision came when I went to Duke a couple weeks ago and the doctor was positive on me recovering in the near future," Foster said. "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."
Prior to missing the 2020 season, Foster recorded 66 career tackles (17.5 for loss), 7.0 sacks, a pass breakup, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 756 snaps over 39 career games with 13 starts from 2017-19. In his first season as a starter in 2019, he earned an honorable mention All-ACC selection in addition to garnering All-ACC Academic honors.
“It’s not often you get a call from a great player that you think is gone and he says he’s coming back,” Swinney said. “He’s a great leader with great experience and a really talented football player.”
Foster earned his degree in construction science & management from Clemson in December 2020.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney:
“I’m really excited. I got a call the other day from Justin Foster, and he’s feeling a lot better and back training and has decided that upon further review he really wants to come back and play again. I’m just really, really excited because I know he wasn’t in a good place mentally in January. I tried to talk him out of [moving on] then, but I did tell him, ‘Hey, if something changes, the door is open for you,’ and things have changed. He’s feeling a lot better. Like I said, he’s back training, and I think being away has really rekindled that fire for him.
“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. 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 — five guys that have started at D-end and two that have started at D-tackle. He’s a great leader with great experience and a really talented football player.”
Defensive end Justin Foster:
“I stepped away from football for a short time not knowing if I would be returning or if I was completely done with football with my health and what was going on. I didn’t think I would play again and didn’t know when I would get better, and from the predictions of the doctors I put my trust in, they didn’t know either. It could have been three months, four months, a year, two or three years. They didn’t know. I’m not fully recovered but I’m recovered enough where I can work out, push myself and compete. I will have my highs and lows each day but I’m battling and feel I’m able to compete and come back.
“For me, the decision came when I went to Duke a couple weeks ago and the doctor was positive on me recovering in the near future. 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.
“All my previous appointments, they really couldn’t put a time limit on there. One of the reasons I had stepped away was basically I didn’t know what was going to happen and I stepped away to figure out what was next for me, if it was getting a job and stepping out into the real world and also stepping away and just focusing on my health. For me, I stepped away and I realized how much I love playing the game and miss it. If I didn’t come back, it would have been what it is and that would have been the reality of the situation, but at the end of the day, I am happy that I’m getting better and I want to come back and play.
“I’m excited about it. I’m going to go out there and work hard each day and feel like I’m starting from the bottom, getting back in shape, getting back where I want to be and compete and fight each day to get ready for the season.”