Clemson defensive end Justin Foster announced Wednesday that his playing career is coming to an end after sitting out the 2020 season following a bout with COVID-19 that involved lingering complications. Foster earned honorable mention All-ACC accolades after racking up 41 tackles and 4.5 sacks in the 2019 season, and would have been eligible to return in 2021 as a fifth-year senior.
Foster earned his degree in construction science and management in December, and coach Dabo Swinney said he has a "unique opportunity that's kind of been weighing and tugging on him" in his career outside of football. Foster expounded on the decision to give up playing in a message posted to social media.
"For those unaware, I was born with asthma and allergies that, when active, affect my ability to breathe normally," Foster wrote. "The combination of these conditions, along with contracting COVID, made for a severe difficulty to perform physically. While my situation has improved, I am not in position now, nor do I see that position soon, to step back on the field."
Swinney said he tried to talk Foster out of the decision but acknowledged "he had a very tough fall" after contracting COVID-19 in the summer. Foster entered the Clemson program as a four-star prospect out of Shelby, North Carolina, in the class of 2017. His on-field contributions steadily ramped up, culminating with his standout 2019 season.
"If you know Justin Foster, you know first of all that he's a brilliant young man," Swinney said. "He's incredibly smart. He has a lot of interests and is very talented. He's got a great career ahead of him and he knows exactly what he wants to do."