A Clemson Tigers football player is returning to the team after announcing his retirement in February due to long-haul COVID-19. According to ESPN, Clemson defensive end Justin Foster revealed he has unretired from football and will return to the team in June. Foster told ESPN, he spoke to coach Dabo Swinney on Tuesday and told him he wasn't sure if he will be at the same level he was in his previous years.
"[Swinney] said if you're feeling better, even if you're not 100 percent, you can start working with the team and we'll build you up from there," Foster said from his home in Shelby, South Carolina. "He said, 'You don't have to play 60 snaps a game; you'll just do what you can do.'" Foster is part of the 30% who develop long-haul symptoms after being infected with COVID-19. This means he can still experience some combination of symptoms of the disease months after recovering from contracting the virus.
Foster was diagnosed with COVID-19 back in June and dealt with mild symptoms. Once he recovered, Foster experienced debilitating breathing problems and chronic fatigue when he attempted to work out. That led to him missing the 2020 season, and he made the announcement in February he was retiring from football.
"With sadness but no regret, I have decided it is in my best interest to call it a career and hang up football," he wrote in a statement that was posted on Twitter at the time. "During my four years as a Clemson Tiger, I've always pursued success in the classroom and on the field while preparing and training with the highest competition standards, passion, and perseverance."
Foster said the turning point for him to return is when he received the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in mid-April. "I started walking, and that was all I could do. Then I started to jog and walk until I could jog the whole rest of the way," he said. Foster also started treatment at Duke University's post-COVID practice and was given new medications and advice about managing his symptoms.
"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 his statement. "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."