ATHENS – Kolton Houston said he made up his mind a long time ago he’s going to “do it all over again.”
By that he means go through Georgia’s Senior Day festivities. Houston, a three-year starter on the Bulldogs’ offensive line, is a rare sixth-year man in college ball. So even though he went through the exercise before last year’s final home game against Georgia Tech, he’ll do it again this year when they’re renewed Saturday against Georgia Southern.
“Why not collect on all the senior stuff again,” Houston quipped. “You get that nice ball, that real nice jersey at the Gala. Yeah, I’m going to do that again.”
He kids. The fact is, this time last year, when he opted to participate in UGA’s annual senior honorarium, he didn’t know whether he’d get a sixth year or not. He was not allowed to file his appeal paperwork with the NCAA’s eligibility committee until after the end of the regular season last year, which includes the conference championship games.
Houston did not get the NCAA’s favorable reply until the week before the Bulldogs went to Charlotte for the Belk Bowl.
“I was always going to do it again if I could do it again,” said Houston, a 2010 signee out of Buford.
He’ll do so at the peril of his teammates.
“He will be (ribbed),” said tackle John Theus, a regular fourth-year senior. “I’m just waiting to hear him ask for tickets because it’s senior day and I’m going to tell him he’s already had his Senior Day. I get the tickets.”
There’s a long and short to Houston’s career. It’s long in that he’s one of less than 1 percent of collegiate athletes who has been able to attend school on an athletic scholarship for six years. But he also had his playing career cut short by NCAA pilicy and bureacracy.
Houston tested positive for a banned substance almost as soon as he arrived on campus as an early enrollee in January of 2010. Houston continued to test positive for anabolic steroids for the next three years. By NCAA rule, could not have his eligibility restored until those tests were negative.
But Houston and UGA appealed on the basis that the steroids had been medically administered for treatment of a surgically-repaired shoulder injury in high school and that they incorrectly injected in an area of fatty tissue where it was unable to dissipate.
Houston finally won his appeal in the summer before the 2013 season, which otherwise would have been his final season as a fourth-year senior.
“It was everything I thought it’d be,” Houston said of the delayed gratification. “My best friend (former UGA long snapper) Wright Gazaway said you’re probably the first person to sit out and then be a three-year starter. That sort of hit home for me. I am truly blessed because I still got an opportunity to live out my childhood dream.”
That said, there’s still some dreaming for Houston to do. He plans on training for the NFL draft after the season. He’ll work out under the supervision Ryan Goldin of Atlanta’s GATA Training, as he and New England Patriots center David Andrews have done since their high school years.
“I’ve played football this long,” he said. “Might as well see how far I can keep going.”
Houston certainly can sell versatility as an attribute. He has played in games for the Bulldogs at every position on the offensive line except center. He started at right tackle this season but now is starting at left guard after the latest midseason reshuffle.
Houston actually is third-team at center and practices there every day. He joked that maybe he can talk coach Rob Sale into getting him in at that position just to say he’s played them all.
But Houston is not stressing over it if the pro football thing doesn’t work out. The rest of his future is already mapped out. That’s one of the perks of spending this long in college.
Houston has a job in wealth management waiting for him on St. Simons Island.
“I’m excited about that whenever that comes about,” Houston said. “People work their whole life to retire at the beach. Why not just start at the beach?”
In the meantime, he’s looking forward to Saturday’s festivities, even though he’s been through them before.
“Last year I wasn’t able to really soak it in because, in the back of my mind I was thinking I’d probably be doing this again,” Houston said. “This time it’s the real deal. So I’m trying to savor these last couple of weeks in Athens. Hopefully I’ll go out of there 10-3. We didn’t get a championship but 10-3 ain’t bad either.”