ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Georgia received an important boost for 2013 on Thursday when offensive lineman Kolton Houston finally won his long battle for eligibility.
Houston was granted reinstatement by the NCAA following three years under suspension for an anabolic steroid he was given for shoulder surgery.
Houston was declared ineligible in January of 2010, his first semester at Georgia, following routine NCAA drug testing which detected the banned substance, 19-norandrosterone. The substance continued to show up in Houston's system in subsequent tests.
He has two years of eligibility remaining and could petition for a third year.
Houston said he had an emotional reaction after finally receiving clearance by the NCAA on his 22nd birthday.
``This is the best birthday present I've ever had,'' Houston said. ``I had almost reached the point where I thought this situation would never end. When I got the call, I broke down and cried for about 30 minutes. I had that much emotion stored up and it felt good to get it out. I'm ready now to show what I can do.''
Coach Mark Richt said he doesn't want to put pressure on Houston to try to make up for lost time. Houston was projected as a starting right tackle had he been eligible entering the 2012 season.
``The big thing is that we're just really happy for Kolton,'' Richt said. ``... We don't want to put any pressure on him like now he's got to be a star. The bottom line is, we're happy he'll be able to participate for Georgia. We're glad it all worked out.''
Georgia director of sports medicine Ron Courson said the Houston case should provide a lesson for other young players.
``I hope that all student-athletes will take note of this case and use extreme caution when taking supplements or medications of any kind, ensuring beforehand that they are safe and permissible,'' Courson said.