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July 26, 2013
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Although his football career was put on hold for almost four years after testing positive for a banned substance in 2010, Kolton Houston said Friday he's not bitter and only happy he's getting a second chance to play.
"I'm not angry. Everything happens for a reason and I think God has a plan for me," Houston said. "I think he's put me on a pedestal and given me a special task. It's just taken me a while to figure out what that is. I'm ready to move on and get to work."
Houston was declared ineligible in January of 2010, his first semester at Georgia, following a routine NCAA drug testing which detected a banned substance. The substance was later determined to have been medically administered following shoulder surgery while Houston was in high school.
The former Buford standout found out the good news Thursday after his most recent test determined his threshold had lowered to 1.8. The NCAA limit is 2.5 nanograms per milliliter of blood.
"It (the process) definitely tried my patience. But it taught me how to be a man and it taught me how to grow up, grow up a lot faster than a lot of kids have to," said Houston, who estimated he was tested over 100 times. "But I learned a lot about myself, I've got a lot of mental toughness from this. I'm just extremely thankful the time finally came."
Athletic director Greg McGarity said Houston did not get any special consideration from the NCAA when the decision to reinstate him was made.
"At the end of the day he had a negative test - that's the story. There was no waiver, there was no special accommodations. I think the one thing that Ron Courson (head trainer) did was he kept it alive," McGarity said. "The numerous times you test above the threshold he could have had the door shut permanently but with Ron's diligence and understanding of the NCAA they were able to keep it alive where if it every did clear he would have his eligibility restored. So just keeping that alive during his period of time was huge and at the end of the day it worked out."
Both McGarity and Houston gave Courson tremendous credit for seeing the situation through to the end.
"When Ron called me I was hesitant at first because it has been going on for so long. I had to sit back and say are you sure, is this it? Is there anything else out there?" McGarity said. "But he said no, this is the results that were left, so I went to Jim (UGA Compliance Chief Jim Booz) and said 'OK, what's next?'"
From there the ball really go rolling.
After hearing from Courson at approximately 3 p.m. Thursday, Georgia officials quickly applied for reinstatement and Houston received the good news from the NCAA some two hours later.
"That's what Ron referred to, that's what Jim referred to as far as the cooperation," McGarity said. "I think they felt sorry for him to endure this, for this length of time. When he (Houston) did do what he had been asked to do, I think it was a matter of the sensitivity that they were showing and basically were able to get it done."
Ironically, Thursday was also Houston's 22nd birthday.
"Ron Courson is one of the best (trainers) in the country and he said from Day 1 he wasn't going to quit on me and he believed in his heart what was happening wasn't fair to me," Houston said. "He wanted to fix it. He dedicated himself so much, a lot of hours that most people would never have done. He didn't have to but he told me from Day 1 he was going to treat me like his son and do everything for me that he would do for his son."
So what's next for Houston, who said he currently weighs 280 pounds?
Georgia reports to camp on Tuesday and hits the practice field for the first time on Thursday. The Bulldogs return all five offensive line starters from a season ago, but Houston is at least expected to battle for playing time at tackle and guard.
"I really don't care where," said Houston. "I'm just ready to be on the field."
It's certainly been a while.
In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2009 in high school since Houston played in an actual game, although he continued to practice with the Bulldogs until early December in 2012.
"I think I stopped practicing right after Tech week so right when we were getting ready to play Alabama I officially stopped practicing, but I continued to work out on my own. When Ben Jones (current Houston Texan) came back in the off-season I worked out with him a lot so although I wasn't working out with the team I was staying in shape and this May when (Courson) told me I should probably start working out again, I started working with my trainer back home," Houston said. "In June I started to work out with the team. When it comes to camp, I'm ready to go. Physically, I'm in shape. Obviously there's going to be some rust. I haven't practiced in five months, but there's other people who have had surgeries who will be out, too. I know it's not going to be easy, but again this is the first time in four years I'll be practicing with a purpose so I'm looking forward to it and it's going to be fun."
Houston said a lot it still unknown regarding how the PED got into his system following shoulder surgery while still high school.
"We're not exactly sure how it got in my system, although it was in my system, there's no denying that," he said. "But there's no one to blame, really, we can't go back and change anything and I'm not going to go back and try to change anything. That's in the past now, so there's really no need to worry about it. I'm finally cleared and looking forward to the future."
A junior, Houston has two more years of eligibility and could petition the NCAA for a third season, although it's unclear if he will do so.
He admits he never thought Thursday's news would come after he said his threshold leveled out at 4.5 nanograms per milliliter for over a year and a half.
"You start to lose faith in that, and honestly I started to lose faith," he said. "But there was something that just told me to hang on and try it one more season to try. I'm glad I did because this test came back negative."
Houston said he was given the opportunity to drop the fight with the NCAA and keep his scholarship. But he declined.
"That was brought up to me a couple of times through the administration staff and Coach (Mark) Richt, if it was ever too hard I could stay on scholarship and not be involved with football," Houston said. "They gave me the opportunity to officially put my cleats up but I wasn't ready to do that. I knew I had bigger plans that were meant for me and I wasn't ready to quit. I'm glad I didn't."
Houston said he did not do anything different in order to get the threshold to come down.
"Not that I've done before. Obviously, a while back I had the surgery before and the antibiotics and the sauna, but since then it's just been time," he said. "That's really the only way to describe it, time and God works miracles. I'm glad he was ready for me to get cleared."