Justin Houston said his head was hanging low late last spring after he left the office of head coach Mark Richt, who informed him of his two-game suspension for violating team rules.
Embarrassed, hurt, disappointed, Houston sighed, explaining that those were just some of the different emotions he had churning inside. Knowing he had let himself and his teammates down was not a good feeling at all.
Those same feelings were still there when he trudged into the office of position coach Jon Fabris, who asked Houston what he planned to do next.
"I told him I planned on taking my punishment and move on. He said I've got to do more than take my punishment and move on. I had to strive to be perfect," Houston said. "He told me I will never be perfect, but you can strive to be perfect so that's what I'm trying to do."
Apparently, that extra bit of incentive was just what the Statesboro native needed to hear.
"I'm using his words as motivation," Houston exclaimed.
He's also making up for lost time.
After debuting with seven tackles in Georgia's 52-41 win at Arkansas, Houston earned SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors following his performance against Arizona State which saw him make four tackles, including two for a loss and one sack in the Bulldogs' 20-17 victory.
"They were running effectively early and (Houston) was one of the guys who stepped up and made some plays," defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. "We got the pass rush we needed without the pressure, and that was good to see."
That was just the type of effort teammates have been waiting to see.
Following a solid spring, Houston enjoyed a stellar G-Day game when he recorded four tackles, all for losses, including three sacks.
"I think Justin made a big impact, especially (against Arizona State)," defensive tackle Jeff Owens said. "I thought he got tremendous pressure on the quarterback, was able to flush him and collapse the pocket. That's what we need to do to be successful on defense."
Houston's timing could not have been better timed.
After losing Roderick Battle for the year with a torn ACL, the Bulldogs will be depending greatly on Houston and hope the continued development of redshirt freshman Cornelius Washington will help provide enough depth at defensive end to get Georgia through the rest of the year.
"I think he's (Houston) really glad to be back," Owens said. "Having to sit out two games when the rest of your teammates are out playing hurts you. It hurt him not being with the guys."
Now, Houston just wants to produce.
Although many expect great things from the 6-foot-3, 259-pounder, Houston said he's not trying to do anything special. He just wants to be an important cog in what the Bulldogs are trying to do defensively.
"I've got a job to do and that's pretty much what I'm trying to do. Practice hard and make sure I do my assignments. That's my job," he said. "I'm here to help and I'm going to try and do the best I can to put pressure on the quarterback, give other defensive help a well."
Houston said he's still not quite where he wants to be.
The redshirt sophomore says his timing still needs work, and there are certain other nuances he needs to hone before he feels he can make the impact many believe that he'll eventually have.
Houston said that he'll certainly have his work cut out Saturday against LSU.
The Tigers feature one of the league's top left tackles in senior Ciron Black (6-5, 322), who anchors an LSU line which continues to improve as the weeks pass by.
"Their whole offensive line looks good," Houston said. "No. 70 (Black) is a highly-regarded tackle. I'm going to have to go out and play hard, but having him there is just another one of the things that helps motivate me."
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