Kolton Houston isn‚Äôt concerned about how he might fit on Georgia‚Äôs offensive line.
After fighting for more than three years to gain his eligibility with the NCAA, which had barred him from playing for testing positive for a banned substance, Houston simply can‚Äôt wait to play his first college snap for the Bulldogs.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt care. You can line me up at tight end or receiver,‚Äù Houston said Friday morning, the day after the collegiate sports governing body reinstated him.
Houston said he had been tested ‚Äúupwards to 100‚Äù times and finally reached the acceptable threshold on his last test on July 18.
‚ÄúI really started to lose faith, but there‚Äôs something that just told me to hang on and give it one more season to try,‚Äù said Houston, who thanked God, the University of Georgia administration, UGA director of sports medicine Ron Courson and his family for helping him fight to gain eligibility. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm glad I did. … God works miracles and I guess he was ready for me to get cleared.‚Äù
Houston insisted he isn‚Äôt angry, just ‚Äúextremely thankful‚Äù to be able to finally play.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been a long four years, but the time‚Äôs finally here and I‚Äôm ready to get to work,‚Äù Houston said. ‚ÄúIt definitely tried my patience. It taught me how to be a man. It made me grow up, grow up a lot faster than a lot of kids my age had to. I learned a lot about myself.‚Äù
Houston tested positive in a random NCAA drug test in April 2010 for the performance enhancing substance Norandrolone ‚Äî an anabolic steroid. He now believes the steroid was administered to him unknowingly through injections to treat shoulder injuries while playing at Buford High School.
He continued to test positive because trace amounts of the substance remained trapped in fatty tissues. The NCAA limit is 2.5 nanograms per milliliter, but Houston said he tested at 1.8 in the latest test.
Georgia learned Thursday morning about the negative test, said Jim Booz, who heads Georgia‚Äôs compliance department. Georgia quickly sought and received Houston‚Äôs reinstatement the same day.
‚ÄúIt was all such a flurry,‚Äù Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said.
McGarity said he got word in a call from Courson on Thursday about the results of the last test.
‚ÄúI was hesitant at first because it‚Äôs been going on for so long,‚Äù McGarity said. ‚ÄúI had to sit back and say, ‚ÄòAre you sure? Is this it? Is there anything else out there.‚Äô‚Äù
Houston said he was busy moving out of his house when Courson gave him the good news. He said he‚Äôll be ‚Äúforever indebted‚Äù to Courson for spearheading Georgia‚Äôs effort to get Houston eligible.
‚ÄúWe just knew we were going to do everything we could to prolong it and fight for Kolton,‚Äù McGarity said. ‚ÄúRon Courson, boy, he took this as something to where he really, really felt so strongly about it. If Ron feels strongly about it, we all trust him immensely.‚Äù
Now, Houston, a junior who has two years of eligibility remaining and can apply for another year after the 2014 season, will join his teammates on the practice field next week for preseason workouts.
Houston worked at first-team right tackle in the spring of 2012 and could be an option at guard as well.
‚ÄúThis is the first time in four years that I get to practice with a purpose,‚Äù said Houston, who became eligible on his 22nd birthday. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm looking forward to it and it‚Äôs going to be fun.‚Äù
The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Houston hasn‚Äôt practiced with the team since late November before the SEC championship game. He said he practiced at about 275 pounds ‚Äútwo springs ago when I was actually playing the best football of my life.‚Äù
He continued to work out on his own and with former Bulldogs center Ben Jones, now with the Houston Texans, when he was in town.
Perhaps a sign that Courson knew that Houston was getting close to the threshold, Houston was told in May he should start working out again. So he did that back home and then worked out with teammates this summer.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm physically in shape,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúObviously there‚Äôs going to be some rust. … I‚Äôm going to have a lot of work to do. It‚Äôs not going to be easy. ‚Äù
Coach Mark Richt shared the news with the players in a team meeting on Thursday.
‚ÄúEverybody started jumping up and down, going crazy and yelling,‚Äù Houston said.
Houston, rated the No. 6 offensive guard in the nation by Scout.com in the 2010 class, hasn‚Äôt played in an actual game since Dec. 11, 2009, when Buford beat Calhoun 13-10 to win the Georgia Class AA state title in the Georgia Dome.
Houston chose not to criticize the NCAA for not giving him a waiver even after Georgia insisted there was no re-use for steroids that remained in his system.
‚ÄúIt wasn‚Äôt easy the task that they were handed,‚Äù Houston said. ‚ÄúI never blamed them. … I‚Äôm thankful that they finally were able to reinstate me.‚Äù