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ATHENS, Ga. -- Kolton Houston's three-year struggle to regain NCAA eligibility is finally over.
The Georgia offensive lineman passed his most recent NCAA drug screening, allowing him to join the Bulldogs' active roster for the first time in his college career.
He learned of his reinstatement in a call from UGA director of sports medicine Ron Courson on Thursday, Houston's birthday.
"I took the test last Thursday," Houston told ESPN's DawgNation. "I was moving out of my house when Ron called me with the news. I was stunned. I didn't know what to think. All the past years' emotions hit me at once."
Houston first failed an NCAA random drug test shortly after enrolling at Georgia in 2010, causing college sports' governing body to rule him ineligible because of steroid use. What followed was a years-long battle between Georgia and the NCAA -- a case that UGA took public in August 2012 and was the subject of a piece on ESPN's "Outside the Lines."
Houston and Georgia's medical staff insisted that his positive drug test stemmed from a steroid injection following shoulder surgery prior to enrolling at UGA. Courson regularly tested Houston and documented that he did not reuse the drug after the initial positive result -- test results that preserved Houston's chance to someday return to the team, despite future positive tests that would have otherwise caused the NCAA to declare him permanently ineligible.
The problem was that the steroid, 19-norandrosterone, seemed to be stuck in his system, failing to dissipate. Houston tried multiple methods of getting the drug out of his body through the years, including an aggressive massage regime, sweat therapy sessions and even surgery, where doctors removed the fatty tissue where the drug seemed to be concentrated.
Although Houston's test results slowly crept closer toward passing, those treatments failed to produce the outcome he desired -- until the latest test, which will allow him finally to play college football.
"This has been a long and very complex case and we have tried to be advocates for Kolton throughout this three-year process," Courson said. "We would like to thank the NCAA staff, as well as the members of the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, who assisted with this case.
"There are a number of medical professionals who played key roles in this appeal, from physicians to pharmacists to biomedical researchers to drug toxicologists. This was truly a team effort."
The former Under Armour All-American at Buford (Ga.) High School, whom ESPN.com rated as the nation's No. 5 guard prospect in the 2010 recruiting class, can compete for playing time this fall.
"This is the best birthday present I've ever had," Houston said in a university statement. "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."
He likely will have some rust to shake off. Houston completed last year's spring practice as the Bulldogs' starting right tackle, but did not participate in every practice last fall or this spring as his eligibility case failed to progress.
"I stopped practicing in December, so technically I've only missed one spring, but I have stayed in shape the whole time,' Houston told DawgNation. "I started working out with the team in the beginning of June, so I will be physically ready to go. It will be a lot of work, but I am ready to finally practice with a purpose and pursue my dream of wearing the red and black."
The Bulldogs will have more established options in the offensive line rotation this fall than they did when Houston was last an active participant. But for the first time since 2010, Houston is clear of all restrictions and able to join the competition, bringing to a close one of the most unusual NCAA eligibility cases in recent history.
"The big thing is that we're just really happy for Kolton," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We're thankful for all the work Ron Courson put in and for those who kept believing, but mostly we're happy for him. 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."