Justin Houston knows he made a mistake last summer, the one that caused head coach Mark Richt to suspend him for the season's first two games.
Although Houston would not go into detail regarding what the "violation of team rules" entailed, suffice it to say, he learned from his mistake and is more than anxious to try and square things with his teammates Saturday night at Arkansas.
"I'm very excited," Houston said after practice Tuesday evening. "I'm trying to hold it in, trying to wait until Saturday, but I'm very excited. I can't wait.
Richt is glad to have him back.
"We're thankful that he will be able to play. He realizes he made a mistake, he paid his price and he was hurting," Richt said. "He wanted to play, but he understood the whole thing and now he's going to get his chance and I think he tried as hard as he could to stay in the best game shape that he could be in. He spent a lot of time after practice working on his own. He practiced hard, had a great attitude throughout it all knowing that his time was going to come and now its here."
His timing could not be better.
Georgia lost starting defensive end Roderick Battle to a torn ACL in last Saturday's 41-37 victory over South Carolina, and Houston's return provides immediate relief.
"I wish that would have never happened," Houston said. "It hurt me to my heart when I saw him go down, a senior at that, knowing he might not step on the field again
it just hurt."
Although Houston doesn't want to make predictions, it's certainly hoped that the Statesboro native will be able to step right in and pick up from how he performed during the spring and preseason.
"He has potential for sure. He was practicing that way in the spring. He has practiced well in the fall. Every day after practice he stayed and made sure he stayed in the best condition he could. He worked on his fundamentals on his own. He's very, very hungry right now. He could not stand not being there. It was tough on him, but he handled it like you would hope a young man would. I'm proud of how he handled his discipline. Now he's fired up. The guys are happy for him, I'm happy for him. I think Georgia people should be happy for him."
Linebacker Rennie Curran expects Houston to make an immediate impact.
"He can be as good as he wants to be," Curran said. "Going into this game we're going to have even more experience and hopefully that's going to be an advantage as far as learning from my mistakes and trying to improve."
Houston believe he'll be able to do just that.
"Hopefully I can be the guy that get the pass rush, help the rest of the defensive ends get rest," Houston said. "I hope to help the team in many ways."
Houston said he's a better person for having suffered the consequences that he did.
The toughest part was having to sit out the Bulldogs' first two games. Houston said he watched Georgia's loss to Oklahoma State on TV with fellow defensive end Kiante Tripp. He was allowed to stand on the sideline for last week's win against South Carolina.
"Everything happened for a reason so I took it as a challenge. From the time it happened I still practiced hard like it was going to happen," he said. "It hurt me on Game Day when I wasn't on the field, but I always practiced like I was going to play. It motivated me to work harder."
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