Georgia OL Houston ready to make most of sixth season with Bulldogs

UGA photo/John KelleyGeorgia right tackle Kolton Houston, shown last year getting ready to vie with Kentucky defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree, is prepping for his third season with the Bulldogs after being ineligible for the first three.

Answering the question was going to take some time, and time is something University of Georgia right tackle Kolton Houston knows all too well.

Once an early enrollee in 2010 eager to make an impact in the Southeastern Conference, the 6-foot-5, 287-pounder from the Atlanta suburb of Buford had his first three college seasons scratched due to failing repeated drug tests. Houston underwent shoulder surgery while at Buford High School and unknowingly received an injection of the banned steroid Norandrolone, a slow-moving substance that can't be quickly flushed from the body.

Houston failed more than 100 tests before attaining levels below what the NCAA requires in July 2013. He has started 19 of Georgia's 26 games in the two seasons since, including all 13 last year, and was granted a sixth year of eligibility in December by the same NCAA that denied his eligibility requests time and time again.

Knowing now what he could not have imagined upon his arrival in Athens, would Houston be willing to travel the same rejection-filled path?

"Wow, that's a tough one, but I would definitely go through it again," Houston said. "I wouldn't necessarily go through it again for the football reason, because what I went through made me the man that I am today. It taught me a lot of life lessons.

"It taught me how to grow up and how to be a man and that life isn't fair, and I wouldn't change that part of it for the world."

The NCAA's limit for Norandrolone in the system is 2.5 nanograms per milliliter, but Houston's first test in April 2010 revealed a reading of a staggering 260. He was banned for a year, which wound up being a redshirt season.

By February 2011, Houston's levels had gone from 260 to 26, but while Georgia medical officials saw that as marked improvement, the NCAA still saw it as above the legal limit.

In an effort to reduce the levels, Houston endured sauna treatments in 150-degree temperatures, underwent surgery to remove multiple fatty deposits where the Norandrolone was residing and went through countless massage treatments. He had a level of 5.9 by summer 2012 and sat out a third consecutive season, but a reading of 1.8 a year later finally allowed him to play.

Last season, Houston helped the Bulldogs average a league-leading 257.8 rushing yards a game, but he hasn't stopped there. He was named the offensive MVP of Georgia's 15 allotted workouts this spring.

"I think it's a well-deserved honor," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said after the G-Day spring game. "He has been a very good leader for us, and he has fought through a lot of adversity. Not many guys get a sixth year, and a lot of them don't want a sixth year.

"Here he is wanting to play one more time and wear the red and black and put on the 'G.' I think that says a lot about his character, and we appreciate it."

Ah, the sixth year.

Houston's longevity with the Bulldogs is reflected by the fact he signed and practiced under former line coach Stacy Searels, practiced and played under former line coach Will Friend and went through spring working for new line coach Rob Sale. He will be 24 by the time the Bulldogs begin preseason camp and occasionally may block freshman defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter, who is 17, in practice.

References to the coaching eras of Jim Donnan, Ray Goff or even Vince Dooley are not uncommon for Houston to hear.

"I definitely get those kinds of jokes," Houston said. "I've taken the old-man role, and I'm fine with that."

Houston could be beyond bitter toward the NCAA. Instead, he has chosen to appreciate the governing body's decision to grant him a sixth season.

"I'm extremely excited," he said. "How many people get to say they stayed in college for six years? Everybody always wants to go back to college, so I'm grateful that I've been here for six years.

"I don't know what my future holds, but I've got one more year to improve my craft."

Contact David Paschall at [email protected] or 423-757-6524.