Justin Foster had a chance to tell his story.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Foster detailed his long road back from recovery, why he chose to step away from the game of football and what drew him back to Clemson.
“It’s great. I didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to step back out here. A lot of doctor’s appointments, a lot of discussions with (Dabo Swinney) and many other people,” Foster told reporters Tuesday evening. “I’m just happy to be out here. I kept the faith. I’m just having a great time.
Now, Swinney has spoken about Foster’s situation many times in the past. He indicated that he had spoken to Foster at the tail end of Clemson’s 2020 campaign and wanted him to wait before making a decision on his future.
Foster stepped away from the game of football anyway.
“I was very frustrated with the whole situation and what was going on,” he said. “I had been going back-and-forth to doctors and I was going to MUSC (The Medical University of South Carolina). The last visit at MUSC, the doctor recommended me to give up football and just rest. He didn’t know how long it was going to be. He didn’t know if this was going to be a couple of months or if it was going to linger any longer.
“With that being said, I just kind of made the best decision for my health at the time and just mentally, I wasn’t in a good place. I sat around the whole year not knowing what’s going on, struggling with my health, so it was just best for me to step away.”
The most frustrating part for Foster was the unknown.
He would be in and out of trips to the doctor’s office and there was a level of uncertainty because of the lack of readily available information regarding the COVID-19 virus.
That became tiresome for Foster, just not knowing what the future held for his health.
He would start feeling better for about a week, feeling himself again, and then boom…The next day he was back at ground zero.
“Throughout the whole season, I was more shut down. I was very limited,” Foster said. “I didn’t do much of anything during the season. We tried to do things every day, but it was kind of hit or miss, whether there was an asthma attack the day before or whatever. I just had to be cautious and protect myself.
The main thing that Foster was dealing with was breathing. He was having a very bad allergic reaction, which was causing a lot of inflammation in his lungs.
So, when did Foster actually start feeling better?
It was when he made a call to Swinney. He doesn’t remember the exact time and date of the phone call but estimated that was around two or three months after he left the program.
“I just told him I was feeling better,” Foster said. “I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to play at the time, but I knew that I was feeling better and getting better each day. I wasn’t having as many setbacks as I was. And the doctors at Duke recommended that I go back and play and said that if I stick to the program they put me on and take my medicine that I would be able to play.”
With his football career on hold, Foster was just mainly hanging out. He did, however, go to work with his father at his trucking company for a little bit. Although, from there it was extremely difficult for Foster to do everyday activities.
“My dad recommended that I get my health under control before I figured out what was next in life,” he said.
Going back to Foster’s first visit at Duke, when he was told that he could go back and play football, he heard from Swinney immediately after the fact.
This phone call wasn’t abnormal, but it certainly was out of the blue. Swinney wasn’t aware of Foster’s appointment, being that he was no longer with the team.
“That was kind of like a sign for me,” Foster said. “He was just calling to catch up…For me, that was like a ‘God wink’ as Coach Swinney calls it, and right there, as soon as I walked out the door, he rang. It was kind of crazy. I didn’t tell him then. I thought about it a little bit. Probably two weeks later, I called him and let him know.”
At that point in time, Foster felt like he was around 50-60%, so his status for this coming season was still up in the air.
He was feeling better mentally, but there were still some hurdles for him to overcome before he was ready to immerse himself back into the locker room with his teammates.
Overall, Foster’s breathing had improved and the inflammation in his lungs had cleared. He was told by his doctor that it may be uncomfortable, but Foster would be able to move forward. Nothing was going to be life-threatening at that point.
Foster was pushing himself, but he also needed some pushing.
Luckily, he had his family supporting him and one of his lifelong friends, Michael Smith, to push him.
Smith was with Foster every morning working out. He was the guy who would get Foster to go, even if he didn’t want to. He continually checked on him throughout the process.
Another part of the process for Foster was getting the vaccine.
He was hesitant at first but slowly warmed up to the idea after it was recommended to him by his doctors.
Once Foster got the vaccine, is when he started to improve, he said. Obviously, Foster didn’t feel so great after he got his dose, but it took about three weeks and he finally was able to get his asthma under control and feeling like himself again.
He’s been good ever since.