Virginia Tech safety Michael Cole was taken off the field on a stretcher against Florida State in November after what would become a career-ending injury. (Steve Helber/AP)

Virginia Tech safety Michael Cole has decided to retire from football after suffering a neck injury in a game last fall, the school announced.

In a news release Thursday, Virginia Tech said it was determined Cole should not continue his career because of the higher risk of further injury to his neck and spine, on the advice of doctors and the school’s training staff.

Cole, a redshirt freshman, suffered a cervical neck sprain when he led with his helmet trying to make a tackle during the third quarter of a nationally televised Thursday night loss to Florida State on Nov. 7. He remained motionless on the field for nearly 10 minutes before an ambulance came into Lane Stadium and shuttled him to a nearby hospital. A subsequent CT scan revealed no neck fracture.

The Roanoke native did not play the rest of the year and has since undergone neck surgery because “he was still having persistent symptoms,” team physician Mark Rogers said in the statement. “He has recovered well and he will continue rehabilitation. We expect him to make a full recovery.”

Because Cole qualifies for a medical disqualification, he will remain on scholarship and not count toward Virginia Tech’s limit of 85, per NCAA rules.

“I would just like to thank Coach [Frank] Beamer, and Coach [Bryan] Stinespring – who recruited me – and all of the coaches for making my dream come true,” Cole said in a statement. “It truly has been an honor and a blessing to be led by such a highly respected group of people. I would also like to thank my friends and family back home and the entire Hokie Nation, which has supported me throughout my career.

“It pains me that I will never be able to put the pads on again for this prestigious program and university, but in spite of this all, I will forever be a Hokie.”

Cole appeared in 10 games this season and saw significant playing time as part of Virginia Tech’s nickel package. He finished with 43 tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

His decision is another blow for the Hokies’ secondary, which could be without cornerback Antone Exum to begin next season after he suffered a torn ACL playing pick-up basketball last month. Starting rover Kyshoen Jarrett will return for the Hokies in 2013, but Cole was his backup last year. The Hokies signed three safeties, including top 100 recruit Holland Fisher, during last week’s National Signing Day, and also have rising sophomore Desmond Frye on the roster.

“I am disappointed that Michael Cole will no longer be playing football at Virginia Tech,” Beamer said in a statement. “Good players with great character are hard to replace. I believe Michael has a great future no matter what road he decides to take.”