The March arrest of James DeLoach and three of his Georgia football teammates for twice cashing UGA-issued student stipend checks put the relatively unknown defensive lineman‚Äôs name out there in a negative light.
ATHENS - James DeLoach during Georgia's 41-30 win over South Carolina at Sanford Stadium on September 7, 2013. (Dean Legge/Fox Sports NEXT)
It brought with it plenty of running before the sun came up as part of internal discipline meted out by coach Mark Richt.
The 80 hours of community service DeLoach says he has now completed were part of the pre-trial intervention program he was accepted into in court.
DeLoach is still on the Bulldogs‚Äô team. Unlike the other players arrested along with him.
In fact, he‚Äôs now running with the first-team so far this preseason.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been a little journey, but I‚Äôm just looking forward,‚Äù DeLoach said Sunday evening when he spoke for the first time since his arrest. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve put it behind me. I‚Äôm going to continue and get better and be a better person and grow with my teammates.‚Äù
Those teammates no longer include Jonathan Taylor, DeLoach‚Äôs friend since middle school in Millen that he played high school football with and considers like a brother.
DeLoach was unsure if he would be able to stick around either until he learned he would not be suspended for any games in June.
‚ÄúI didn‚Äôt really know what was going to happen,‚Äù DeLoach said.
Fans will cheer for him just like they do the rest of those in red and black this fall. He still has a chance to make a different impression.
‚ÄúI want them to know I‚Äôm a great person and I‚Äôm going to do whatever it takes to bring a national championship to the university,‚Äù DeLoach said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to continue to push my teammate and my defensive line. We‚Äôre going to keep growing and work hard and do the best we can.‚Äù
Taylor, also arrested in March on theft by deception charges, was dismissed from the team on July 23 a day after he was arrested for aggravated assault/family violence after an incident with his girlfriend in a UGA dorm room.
DeLoach says he talks to his close friend still every day.
‚ÄúIt hasn‚Äôt really hit me yet,‚Äù the soft-spoken DeLoach said about not having Taylor around. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm pretty sure it isn‚Äôt going to have any effect on me or my football.‚Äù
He said he‚Äôs not sure what Taylor‚Äôs next step will be once his legal issues are behind him, but said: ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs got a lot of calls from a lot of different coaches.‚Äù
DeLoach says he uses his time now to learn the playbook ‚Äúand not being in an environment that would allow me to get in a situation or get involved in any more trouble,‚Äù he said.
DeLoach isn‚Äôt making too much of his first-team status for now, but others have noticed what he can do. DeLoach was named most improved defensive player by coaches this spring.
‚ÄúDeLoach is pretty tough to block 1-on-1 in pass rush,‚Äù offensive tackle John Theus said.
The junior has four tackles each of the past two seasons. He played only five games last season as an outside linebacker.
The 6-foot-3 DeLoach says he‚Äôs dropped 21 pounds since the spring and now weighs 276.
‚ÄúI can use my quickness and my speed (on the defensive line) on a guard,‚Äù he said.
He said Georgia coaches and others in the athletic department are helping to guide him now off the field.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going to work through this thing together and put it behind us,‚Äù he said.