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January 9, 2014 at 3:07 PM

UW offensive lineman Erik Kohler takes medical retirement

Offensive lineman Erik Kohler looks at a Bengal Tiger brought to a UW practice in September 2012, the week the Huskies were preparing to play the LSU Tigers. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Offensive lineman Erik Kohler looks at a Bengal Tiger brought to a UW practice in September 2012, the week the Huskies were preparing to play the LSU Tigers. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Erik Kohler, a two-year starter on Washington’s offensive line, has taken a medical retirement.

“My body just couldn’t do it any more,” Kohler told The Seattle Times on Thursday.

As a redshirt junior, Kohler appeared in five games for UW in 2013, including two starts at left guard. He started five games as a true freshman for the Huskies in 2010 and had a streak of 20 consecutive starts from 2010 to 2012, mostly at right tackle, before a series of injuries derailed his career.

He will remain on scholarship and plans to finish his UW undergraduate degree later this year, but he won’t count against the NCAA limit of 85 scholarships.

“My body is definitely happier (now),” he said. “But I’ve been playing football since my freshman year in high school, and I’ve been an athlete all my life, and there isn’t really anything that can prepare you for this.”

Kohler, listed at 6-feet-4, 294 pounds, was considered one of the nation’s top-five high school guards coming out of Oaks Christian High (Calif.) in the Class of 2010. He chose UW over Notre Dame, arriving in Seattle — along with touted quarterback Nick Montana, an Oaks Christian teammate — with much fanfare.

He injured his right knee in training camp in 2012 and aggravated that with a dislocated knee against LSU in September 2012, an injury that sidelined him for the rest of that season.

While rehabilitating the knee injury, he broke a bone in his foot last summer. It was then, he said, that “the seed was planted” that his playing career might be coming to a close.

He made his 2013 season debut against Oregon on Oct. 12 and played in his final game against UCLA on Nov. 15. “After that, I really couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I wasn’t playing like the player I used to be.”

A lingering shoulder injury also factor into his medical retirement, which was finalized in December.

“No matter what I did, it always seemed like there was something — there was always an injury hindering me,” Kohler said. “My doctor basically said, ‘If you were my kid, I wouldn’t let you play.’”

Kohler said he has no regrets about his UW career. He thanked former UW offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto, UW trainers and strength coaches and fans.

“I can’t thank the Husky fans enough,” he said. “From Day One, this felt like home for me. It’s been an unbelievable journey … and I’ll be a Dawg until the day I die.”

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