Justin Foster went to the doctor a couple of weeks ago expecting to get just a regular checkup. What he got was an unexpected surprise–a good surprise—from his doctor.
Foster’s doctor at the Duke Medical Center in Durham felt he was well on his way to a full recovery after having complications from COVID-19, which caused more issues with his asthma, a condition he has been fighting since he was a kid.
But Foster did not get just a clean bill of health.
“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 [football] again, she’d encourage me to and support me and she would do the best she could to get me back healthy,” Foster said. “She believed that I will be healthy and, for me, that was a big stepping stone.”
It was big enough where Foster reached out to Clemson and head coach Dabo Swinney earlier this week, asking if it was okay for him to return for the 2021 football season.
“I’m really excited,” Swinney said. “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.”
And that is good news for Clemson. With Foster back at defensive end, he adds depth and experience to what is already a talented and deep defensive line.
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 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 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,” Swinney said.
Foster is now added to a defensive end position that has Myles Murphy, K.J. Henry, Xavier Thomas and Justin Mascoll as starters, while Regan Upshaw, Greg Williams and freshman Cade Denhoff will also add depth to a talented position group.
Prior to Foster’s news, Clemson’s defensive front was already considered one of the best in the country.
Foster had previously announced his intention to step away from football on Feb. 24 following complications related to asthma and COVID-19.
“For me, I stepped away and I realized how much I love playing the game and miss it,” he said. “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.”
—Clemson Athletics Communications Contributed to this story
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