Penn State defensive end Ryan Buchholz, a Great Valley High School graduate who was a leading candidate to be a starter for the Nittany Lions' season opener on Sept. 1, announced Wednesday that he is retiring from football because of chronic back pain.
In a statement he released on Twitter, the 6-foot-6, 258-pound redshirt junior from Malvern said his back problems started developing in high school and never got better.
"I've been through years of dealing with extreme pain," he said. "After multiple back surgeries and the inability to perform 100 percent at this level, it is time for me to retire.
"You only have one body, and my health and future well-being is most important to me. Unfortunately, some things don't last forever and I am just very thankful for everyone who has helped and supported me throughout my career."
Penn State coach James Franklin said Wednesday night that Buchholz's back pain has "been going on for a while."
"This isn't something that just came upon us," he said. "In the back of your mind, you hope it's going to work out. Kid's been dealing with it for a long time."
Another Penn State player, freshman cornerback Jordan Miner of Wesley Chapel, Fla., also announced Wednesday he had to stop playing football because of health, saying on Twitter that he had been diagnosed with a heart condition.
"The hardest part is these guys all have a vision in their minds of how this is all going to play out," Franklin said. "It just doesn't always play out that way."
Interviewed Aug. 4 at the team's media day, Buchholz appeared excited about the new season after losing nearly 20 pounds in the offseason.
"I've dropped some weight and I think I got my speed up a little bit," he said. "I think it's just trying to get my speed up, stay at end, help the team out as much as possible."
Buchholz, who played some defensive tackle the last two seasons, also indicated he might play there again this year "because I have two years of experience of playing D-tackle and since we do have some young D-tackles, if they need me, that would be awesome."
Buchholz, who had five career sacks, appeared in 10 games last season with six starts. He suffered an injury on his first defensive snap against Ohio State and had to miss the next three games.
A teammate of former Villanova star Mikal Bridges on Great Valley's basketball team, Buchholz thanked head coach James Franklin and his staff "for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to play at an amazing university like Penn State."
Whether he won a starting job, Buchholz was expected to be part of a five-man rotation at defensive end. Now that he won't be playing, and senior Torrence Brown will not be ready for the season opener because of a knee injury that ended his 2017 season, the position could be lacking in depth.
Two former Philadelphia high school stars, redshirt junior Shareef Miller and redshirt sophomore Shaka Toney, will see action along with sophomore Yetur Gross-Matos and redshirt sophomore Shane Simmons.