Kiante Tripp is having fun on the football field again. It's certainly been a while.
By now, most Georgia football fans know the story of the former Westlake standout, who has bounced around from position to position, offensive line to tight end and back to offensive line before landing at defensive end in the Bulldogs' 3-4 scheme.
Finally, it appears he's found a home and as evidenced by his performance in Saturday's 44-31 win at Kentucky, he's finally contributing as well.
Although his numbers might seem modest by most standards, his four-tackle effort against the Wildcats, including 2.5 for losses of 5 yards, was enough to have the senior grinning from ear to ear during a recent interview at the Butts-Mehre Building.
"Basically, I just told myself to have fun and stop worrying about the little stuff," Tripp said. "I got the chance and now that I've got some confidence, and know that my coaches trust me, I've been able to make a couple of plays. It feels good."
We're not talking about numbers posted in a mop-up role, either.
Little by little, Tripp has started to earn favor with position coach Rodney Garner, who Saturday did not hesitate to insert Tripp into the game in the first quarter to spell starter Demarcus Dobbs at left end.
"I've been backing up Dobbs, but I think a lot of it has to do with what I've been showing in practice," Tripp said. "I know what to do as far as my assignments and my coaches have become confident that I know what to do. They know I've got the ability, now it's just a matter of doing it."
Garner, not one to offer much hyperbole, said he's pleased with the steps Tripp has made.
"I'm happy to see him have some success," Garner said. "The kid's been in our program a long time and Saturday played the best game of his career since he's been here. It was good to see him make some improvement."
Dobb is even more proud.
As classmates, Dobbs and came into the Bulldog program with Tripp, and watched his friend go from a prospect many expected would shine collegiately, to one who for whatever reason was never able to find his niche.
"He stuck through and did everything that was ever asked of him," Dobbs said. "I'm pretty sure there were some down times for him, having to switch positions again and again, but he stuck through it, did everything the coaches said and gave 100 percent in the weight room and classroom. I think there' something to be said for that."
The fact that he's finally able to contribute has been the biggest blessing of all.
It's one thing to be a part of the team. But according to Tripp, unless you're out there actually contributing, simply being a part of the team isn't enough.
"Man, just knowing that I'm able to contribute and help the team by making a play, knowing I'm making my teammates happy, that's big," Tripp said. "Seeing them feed off my energy, it's great."
So why the big change?
Tripp said straightening out his priorities and understanding what's truly important hasn't hurt.
"I just finally decided to go hard for the Lord and stay prayed up all day long," Tripp said. "I used to ask myself what was taking so long, but at the same time I always knew I just had to be patient. Now, I'm helping out the team, they need me, but now I've got to play even harder because it's Florida week. It's my last year and I don't have anything to lose. I'm just going to go hard."
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