After falling short of national championship appearance last season, Clemson will get a huge boost on defense headed into 2021.
Tigers defensive end Justin Foster, who retired from football just a few months ago because of long-haul COVID-19 symptoms, announced on Wednesday that he’ll return to the team this June. After missing the 2020 season due to complications with the virus, he’ll play football for the first time since 2019.
Foster revealed that he chose to come back to Clemson after a heartfelt conversation with head coach Dabo Swinney.
“[Coach Swinney] said if you’re feeling better, even if you’re not 100%, you can start working with the team and we’ll build you up from there,” Foster 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.'”
Swinney also addressed his defensive lineman’s return, calling Foster “a great leader with great experience.”
“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 said in an official Clemson release. “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… He’s a great leader with great experience and a really talented football player.””
Breaking news: Clemson’s Justin Foster, who thought long-haul COVID-19 had ended his career, will rejoin the team next month, he tells us. Dabo Swinney had left the door open, and after getting his vaccine last month Foster showed dramatic improvement. https://t.co/mjZGRmDvzT
— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) May 5, 2021
🚨 Welcome back, 35. 🚨
With encouragement from his doctor, DE Justin Foster has informed Clemson of his intention to return for the 2021 season.
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) May 5, 2021
In 2019, Foster became a strong piece of Clemson’s fearsome defensive front. He racked up 35 tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks on his way to earning an All-ACC honorable mention.
After graduating last December, Foster has one final year of eligibility left to help the Tigers chase their seventh consecutive College Football Playoff appearance.