ATHENS -- Kolton Houston was done with football.
For a three-year period, he waited for a positive outcome from a negative result. All he wanted to do was play the sport he grew up with, that he accepted a college scholarship at Georgia for.
But due to a fluke incident, in which a doctor injected the banned substance Norandolone into his fat tissue, the NCAA wouldn’t allow Houston to compete as a freshman for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
Three years came and went and Houston was unable to come away with a negative test result below the 2.5 nanograms per milliter (ng/ml) threshold. The NCAA wouldn’t budge on the ban. Houston began to lose hope.
Leading up to his final drug test, just before Houston’s 22nd birthday, the offensive tackle made his peace with the sport. He was content with taking his life in a different direction. Houston didn’t even care to take that final drug test. But his mother, Tiffany Houston, and Georgia director of sports medicine Ron Courson pleaded with him to take it.
They didn’t want to see an unhappy ending.
After three years of waiting, along with a surgery to remove some of the fatty deposits that contained the drug, Houston finally passed, with his Norandolone reading 1.8 ng/ml. He was cleared to play football again.
“There came a point where I was mentally done,” Houston said. “I lost like 35 pounds. Then (Courson), it had been a while, he waited two months to do a drug test. He wanted me to do another. I didn’t really want to. My mom begged and begged me. It took them about a week of hard convincing to do another drug test.
“And sure enough, that was the one.”
Just like that, Houston could play football again. And in a weird twist, Houston believes it potentially benefitted him.
After initially taking a hard stance against Houston, who never knowingly took a performance-enhancing drug, the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility. He has now been able to play football for three years and will enter this season as a second-year starter. If Houston was never banned, he might not have gotten much playing time at all. Instead, Houston has seen the field more than he possibly expected.
At least that’s the positive way Houston’s looking at it.
“It worked out for the best,” he said.
It was a strange first three years. Not one teammate knew about his plight when he was a freshman. Houston redshirted, which covered the fact he tested positive and was banned by the NCAA for a full year.
When he was still ineligible in year two, suspicions arose. Houston wasn’t practicing or in the conversation for playing time. Head coach Mark Richt broke the news to the team sometime during his second year on campus.
Before being cleared by the NCAA in 2013, the nation found out about Houston when ESPN ran a segment on its “E:60” program detailing his predicament.
Now, Houston is the starting right tackle for an offensive line regarded as one of the best in college football in 2015. His first three years stand in stark contrast to how it’s been since.
“We’ve become best friends,” senior left tackle John Theus said. “When I first got here, I didn’t know him that well. He wasn’t practicing at that point. Over these past two years we’ve developed our relationship. We help each other out with anything on the field. I love the kid to death.”
There was always the chance that 2014 would be Houston’s final year at Georgia. Houston held out hope -- which was almost lost during the ordeal he went through with the NCAA -- that he’d get another year of football.
When he got the news, he embraced it. There was no doubt Houston would play this year if the NCAA allowed it. Despite the arduous process he’s been through, it now seems like his time has come and gone at Georgia.
“Time has definitely flown,” Houston said. “Last year I kept in the back of my mind, I tried to attack last season like that was going to be my last year. But really it never fully kicked in. In the back of my mind, I was always planning for this year. It’s a little more surreal. It’s kind of amazing I’ve been here for six years.”