Dogs can learn from Justin Houston’s NFL slide

One of Justin Houston's "poor decisions" might have been taking plays off. (Associated Press)

One of Justin Houston's "poor decisions" might have been taking plays off. (Associated Press)

There’s a lesson in the Justin Houston story for his former teammates who remain in Athens, and not just the one about getting caught one toke over the line.

Houston’s surprising slide to the third round of the NFL draft, after being considered a consensus second-round pick and some analysts even speculating he could go late first round, would have been a real shock had it not been for the FoxSports.com report this week that he had tested positive for marijuana at the February NFL combine in Indianapolis.

After all, in his junior year, playing outside linebacker in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme at UGA, Houston became a regular visitor to opposing teams’ backfield, racking up 18.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and 44 quarterback hurries, along with 38 solo tackles, 67 total tackles, forcing two fumbles, recovering a fumble for a touchdown and making an interception. He wound up all-SEC, made several All-America teams and was in the running for the Bednarik, Butkus and Nagurski awards. If he’d returned for his senior season, he probably would have been considered one of the nation’s premier defensive players.

All of that and only a third-round draft pick?

But while Houston seemed to be thinking of the failed drug test when he told reporters he attributed his drop in the draft to “some of the poor decisions I made,” there was another factor pointed out by ESPN analysts Todd McShay and Jon Gruden, who criticized Houston’s work ethic.

Working hard every day has made Orson Charles an MVP in his head coach's eyes. (Associated Press)

Working hard every day has made Orson Charles an MVP in his head coach's eyes. (Associated Press)

Both complained that, as Gruden said, Houston doesn’t “play hard all the time.” As McShay put it, “The problem is this guy doesn’t play every single down like it’s the last play of his career, which drives you crazy because he has so much potential.”

Actually, I’d heard UGA fans complain sporadically last season about Houston occasionally taking plays off — something that unfortunately has been a recurring problem for the Dogs over the past five years or so.

Perhaps it was the lack of conditioning that eventually resulted in an overhaul of Georgia’s strength program this offseason, but the Dogs have become known for sporadic effort. Even Knowshon Moreno, famed for popping up from a tackle and sprinting back to the huddle, seemed to take himself out of the game with alarming frequency during his time at UGA.

One encouraging sign for the coming season is that the Dogs have among them an example of the kind of player who draws comparisons with the legendary David Pollack, whose motor was never off. That player is Orson Charles, who’s even been known to take offseason early morning exercise with the ROTC cadets at UGA to improve his fitness and who Mark Richt praised recently as “the MVP of the entire spring.” Richt noted that, “Even wind sprints at the end of practice, he goes as hard as he can go. The last guy I can remember giving that kind of effort every play, every day was Pollack.”

So, sure, I hope current Georgia players take note of the fact that smoking an illegal substance can cost you professionally. But I think the greater lesson is that if you’re not playing every play like it could be your last (and ask Trinton Sturdivant, that’s a very real possibility), you’re not only likely to get beat, but someone at the next level is going to notice.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

133 comments Add your comment

First

April 30th, 2011
10:50 am

Amee Lou

April 30th, 2011
10:59 am

The problem with Mark Richt (okay, this is just one of many problems) is that he continues to recruit kids who he should know are going to have serious off-field character issues. As with Houston, the new kid Crowell is guaranteed to cause problems and get suspended or dismissed.

So why does he keep on recruiting these punks? Does he really think he can win with them?

Newman

April 30th, 2011
10:59 am

Goes back to overall lack of discipline.

Nick

April 30th, 2011
11:03 am

Talk about Justin Houston all you want, but don’t you dare badmouth Knowshon.

Danny

April 30th, 2011
11:03 am

“Does he really think he can win with them?”

Apparently he does. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

So I guess Richt is either insane or he’s totally incompetent. Either way, he’s a loser who needs to be gone from Athens PDQ.

EC

April 30th, 2011
11:07 am

AD McGarity cost Houston several million. McGarity had th fellas working out, from trailers last year. It wasn’t even a 3rd class conditioning program. The players were all out of shape, collapsed in the 4th quarter, on the football and basketball team. Too bad for Houston.

Frederick Hobart Mertz

April 30th, 2011
11:07 am

Crowell is another Ealey-King who will be in and out of jail. Two years at most before he’s off the team.

Norm Greenbaum

April 30th, 2011
11:10 am

Amee Lou, what crystal ball do you have? How in the world do you know Crowell will be a problem? Do you know him personally and have seen him acting a fool? Please enlighten us to how you know this for a fact.

Robin

April 30th, 2011
11:11 am

I have no sympathy whatsoever for jerks like Houston. I predict he’ll have an extremely short career in the NFL.

Do you want it?

April 30th, 2011
11:15 am

Goes back to the overall lack of a sense of discipline, accountability, focus, and “do ya want it?” that the Georgia program lacks.

You all are so funny

April 30th, 2011
11:30 am

Just like everyone else you want to point the finger at someone else for your problems – the problem with Justin Houston is Justin Houston – not GA and not Coach MR – all of you on here knocking the program are the same scum that live off the government and tax payers money because your situation is someone elses fault – well guess what – these players have a choice – they can be like Pollack or Orson and go above and beyond or they can lay back and go in the 3rd or 4th round and lose out on millions and probably never have a NFL career – and Amee Lou your comment just shows your ignorance -

Dawg Tired

April 30th, 2011
11:43 am

Talk about not getting it! The fact that Justin Houston was allowed to continue to play while not putting forth supreme effort is not his fault. That is clearly the responsibility of the coaching staff.

Dawg Tired

April 30th, 2011
11:46 am

The team culture is allowing this lack of effort. Players who loaf in practice or during a game should not be allowed to play on Saturday. Repeatedly failing to give max effort should result in removal from team and loss of scholarship. Then the culture would change.

Beast from the East

April 30th, 2011
11:48 am

Gator fan here. This is not a UGA problem. All schools (and pro teams) have players that don’t go all out every play. It drives the coaches nuts when you have someone with that potential, but you just don’t know which plays the effort will be there. Houston better develop more focus or he won’t last in the NFL.

Dawg Tired

April 30th, 2011
11:49 am

Plus, as the man in charge, if my employees don’t do their jobs as needed, it’s my fault if I continue to allow that to go on. Trust me, I don’t.

Ssgt Dawg

April 30th, 2011
11:50 am

I find it amazing that people can come on a blog just to bash young men who are doing the same things that all of us did at the same age. The decision to get blazed was all Justins not CMR or anybody else. Also how can Howbart say that Crowell is anything like Ealy or King? Is it because he had dreads our maybe its his year round tan that makes him the same? Other than the fact that he’d a GA running back I see no other simularities.

Dawg Tired

April 30th, 2011
11:51 am

Beast – Good point. That point being if Houston continues to take plays off, he will not be employed very long, i.e., he will be cut (same as being fired in the real world).

Wonderful-Ohio-On-The-Gulf 'Dog

April 30th, 2011
11:53 am

Doesn’t “play hard all the time” is a far more damning issue than an untimely toke.

Judgment, too, maybe. After all JH had lots of notice that the drug test was coming.

Alphare

April 30th, 2011
12:15 pm

If you don’t play hard, you are out or here! How about that?

Did you notice Nick Saban’s reaction when a player didn’t play hard or right?

If you are a 100% talent, but give 70% effort, what’s your total output? 70%. That’s why you don’t simply recruit talents, dedication is part of the formula too. Unfortunately, UGA seems to have too many players who don’t give their 100%.

BigDawg

April 30th, 2011
12:19 pm

Where can you find the most expensive pot in the U.S.? In Justin Houston’s ashtray. Big mistake!

bigdon

April 30th, 2011
12:23 pm

Glad the Falcons passed on this moron. I’ve got no problem with weed, but if you can’t stay clean for 30 days before arguably the MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE then you’ve got a problem with weed and you’re a major idiot. It certainly shows lack of character, ambition and poor decision making. Nobody’s fault buy his period. I grew up on the 70’s and we smoked pot like cheech and chong and I never found it to be the least bit addictive nor did it ever interfere with out lives so I can’t see how this guy is some drug crazed toothless meth head that was out of control in the addiction and powerless over their drug. No. Mr. Houston probably blazed with his possee on the way to the combine while listening to rap about killing cops and mother…..ers in a childish attempt for street cred. Doooooosh bag. Luuuzer. Get the BIG L on your forehead now and save up the energy of having to tell you later when you’re broke, in jail and out of shape, but full of street cred. In the immortal words of Royal Marshall — the penultimate opposite in manhood and life choices — just damn.

BigDawg

April 30th, 2011
12:24 pm

Justin, remember Odell Thurman!

papadawg

April 30th, 2011
12:26 pm

I saw the whole danged DAWG team including coaches take plays off and sometimes just about the whole game off so lets not single out one player

bar employee

April 30th, 2011
12:30 pm

SOME OF THESE PLAYERS ARE DOWNTOWN 4-5 TIMES A WEEK UNTIL 2AM IN THE MORNING. THIS INCLUDES SPRING PRACTICE WHEN MARLON BROWN, ISREAL TROUPE, TAVARESS KING, CALEB KING, THE OGLETREES AND QUITE A FEW OTHER PLAYERS WERE OUT PARTYING ON TUESDAY AND THURSDAY NIGHTS.

I see it every time I work, players like Marlon Brown who have so much potental, but instead spend their time trolling the bars. I know these guys are students and deserve to have a good time, but that needs to be within reason. Stafford and Knowshon had the same bad habits during their time in Athens.

The players you rarely see out are the ones making the biggest improvements. Aaron Murray is rarely out and the same goes for Orson Charles. CMR has the responsibility to keep these kids focused on the task at hand and driven to achieve team goals. These guys are allowed to have a good time, but the didn’t get scholarships valued at $150,000+ to party every night.

Dawgster One

April 30th, 2011
12:40 pm

CMR has the responsibility to keep these kids focused on the task at hand and driven to achieve team goals.

And Richt is NOT doing that, which is why he has to be fired. The best otcome for UGA is to have another 6-7 season this year. That will certainly result in Richt being sacked. At least then we could start over with a decent coach and some quality players instead of the losers we have now.

BroncoManiac

April 30th, 2011
12:44 pm

Boise State – 77
Athens Correctional Institute for the Retarded – 10

Bye bye, Saint Mark!

7576DAWG

April 30th, 2011
12:46 pm

Justin Houston could have played one more year at Georgia but unless his attitude changed it would not have mattered , any. I hope last years entitlement team is smart enough to realize that the next level is all business and by the time you declare for the NFL you better have matured enough to work in a MAN’S world or don’t even bother us.
Georgia has gotten rid of a lot of good players in the last year or put them on notice that the past liberty’s will no longer be tolerated at this school. I APPLAUD MCGARITY FOR BRINGING IN THE DISCIPLINE NEEDED AT GEORGIA.
I do not blame CMR for 18 to 20 year old acting like children and immature. BUT I DO BLAME HIM FOR PUTTING UP WITH IT.

Dr. Phil

April 30th, 2011
1:08 pm

Red flags for Crowell: 1. Richt signed Crowell’s not-so-talented homey as an incentive for Crowell to sign in a package deal. 2. Richt’s pandering with the missing runningback drama sent the message that Crowell is “special” and will be treated differently from other team mates. 3. Crowell’s other homeys and facebook pals robbing the UGA locker room indicates that he keeps some bad company. 4. Crowell’s facebook postings. 5. Crowell wearing a Bama hat on his official visit to Auburn–tacky if not stupid.

7576DAWG

April 30th, 2011
1:13 pm

I would recommend that UGA enact a no tolerance on drugs or you are off the team but I’m afraid that 75% of the team would be leaving.
CMR is a football coach and that’s all. But, a lot of progress has been made without tearing the team apart. I hope McGarity realizes now that he has started this stronger less tolerance policy he needs to take it to the next level.

ARdawg

April 30th, 2011
1:18 pm

broncomaniac

That’s just dayum funny right there. I will make a prediction right now. No matter how bad (possibly good) the Dawgs are next year, we still aren’t VT. We won’t lose to Boise ST and expect the same result you got in 05 when your azz was handed to you. Minimum 20 point victory for UGA

ARdawg

April 30th, 2011
1:20 pm

Oh wait, that’s obviously one of the Nerds who has nothing left in life but to post such crap on a UGA blog

Fans Lunatic Fringe

April 30th, 2011
1:24 pm

Georgia fans are insane. Also, Atlanta sports fans, too. Just a bunch of whiners. None of you have ever played the game but you come on these blogs to spurt your predictably irrational nonsense.

True, UGA has underperformed and so too has Atlanta sports, in my opinion. Nonetheless, fans in this state are pitiful. Listen to a Hawks game. The PA announcer has to scream throughout the game “lets go Hawks” just to wake the fanbase up. Go to an Alabama game. LSU game. Auburn game. Clemson game. The fans there love their teams…and cheer throughout the game.

In Sanford stadium, I’m told to sit down and shut up when I try to cheer on UGA. I don’t get it.

Try this…why don’t all of you shut your pie holes and get 100% behind your teams and show some character. Cheer these student athletes on instead of judging them for all that they do.

teewest

April 30th, 2011
1:32 pm

The folks on here complaining about 18 and 19 acting like seasoned adults, do not have any kids OR if the do they keep them in a bubble. I have 3 kids all 3 are doing very well in school, college, and at work. This does not make me feel like some kind of superior parent only a fortunate one. I wonder what kind of ADULTS are Dr. phil and Amee lou! This is the most challenging time in history to be a parent, bet Coach Richt turns out more A J Greens, Aaron Whites, David Greenes, Stinchcombs,Orson Charles and Pollacks than Kings or Ealeys

The Eternal Pessimist

April 30th, 2011
2:05 pm

Good Lord. I love the Dawgs with every fiber of my being, but I can barely stand to read this blog anymore because of all the bad vibes I get every time I come on here. I don’t know if you people are just trolling or legitimately sick in the head, but I sincerely hope it’s the former. I’d hate to think that I’m part of a fan base full of such self-righteous, judgmental venom.

Ca dawg

April 30th, 2011
2:11 pm

Yeah we should probably go ahead and preemptively toss Crowell and all those guys who (gasp!) go to bars in jail now, before they actually do anything wrong. We should also assume that they don’t work hard enough because they like to have a beer every now and then. I bet saban doesnt allow players to go out at all. Once again, bill, you find a way to bring out the crazies.

Ca dawg

April 30th, 2011
2:12 pm

@the eternal pessimist: cheers, brother.

here is an idea

April 30th, 2011
2:25 pm

When I was in college our coach always knew if we had been out partying and made us work five times as had doing sprints, hills, broad jump races until we puked our guts up. CMR needs to hire guys like bar employee to blow the whistle on these guys during the season and if they are reported out and getting loaded during the season, dont kick them off the team, bust their asses. Make them puke and puke and puke, and feel the pain of partying too much

AltamahaDawg

April 30th, 2011
2:26 pm

I have been in Sanford Stadium for 30 yrs and I have never, not one time, heard any fan who was simply cheering on the Dawgs to “sit down and shut his mouth”.

I have however seen on many occation folks tying to enjoy the game on their own terms constantly annoyed by the guy who is more concerned about them than the actual ballgame.

But I am sure you Atlanta folks appreciated one more transplant telling you how to do it all.

RHall

April 30th, 2011
2:43 pm

Chris Davis, OG for UGA, is a perfect example of a player given a scholarship but not caring; constantly at the bar called “On the Rocks” / he lived with the owner of the bar; HE should have been a senior leader but decided it was more important to be out late @ night; no wonder the OL was horrible last year: out of shape and no discipline!!! Hope this changes for the 2011 season!!

1eyedJack

April 30th, 2011
3:02 pm

Western Carolina – 77
North Avenue Institute for 2-Star Booger-eaters – 10

Bye bye, Coach Fishfry!

“Thank God and Greyhound” will be the new battle cry.

shane#1

April 30th, 2011
3:08 pm

Percy Harvin tested positive for the wicked weed. Other than migranes he has turned into a very good NFL player. ASs for taking plays off, all Richt could do was get on his butt. Houston led the SEC in sacks last season, and you morons want him kicked off the team? You guys would not last long as coaches.

kerryb

April 30th, 2011
3:20 pm

What McShay said you can say about Georgia’s defense the last few years. When a coach like John Gruden says something about you like that you think it might wake you up. I guess we’ll see. He needs to wake up and quit smoking the dope. It looks like he has fried some brain cells already.

kerryb

April 30th, 2011
3:23 pm

shane#1, yes, Houston had great career at UGA. Think how much dominating he could have been for us when we needed him to be if his lazy butt had given 100% on every play.

razordawg

April 30th, 2011
3:30 pm

seems to be alot of bigots and borderline racists in the dawgblog today. u people do not even know who crowell is, what he has done, or what he will do. any negative statements about crowell, without hard evidence, can only be attributed to two things: his dredlocks and his chocolate complexion. if this was some “grant hill ” looking rb, then we would not be equating a guy who is banging his prom date today with houston, ealy, or queen (king). we all do not look alike and we certainly do not all act alike despite sharing similar backgrounds.

1eyedJack

April 30th, 2011
3:34 pm

I had read in Athlon’s, I think, an opposing coach (Spurier? Saban?)state that he felt Georgia was soft. I hope Coach Tereshinski read it too and that that phase is history.

Get off the bus and make old ladies faint and children cry!!! What is best in life? “Crush your enemies, drive them before you….and listen to the lamentations of their women!”

Say what you really mean

April 30th, 2011
4:07 pm

To all the sad haters on here who predict Crowell and other UGA players are destined to be in jail and fail have the guts to write what you really mean. Yes I’m talking to you cowards sitting in basements in states far from Georgia with non white populations of 5% or less.

What you pathetic friendless losers want to say is Crowell is a thug and criminal because he is not white. I get so tired of racist haters who live in what might as well be a segregated state usually far from the deep South claiming all Southerners are in the KKK. Meanwhile these pitiful hate filled idiots spew their venom about 18 year old kids safe in the knowlege that no one knows them

1953Dawg

April 30th, 2011
4:21 pm

1eyedjack, i to have heard the same thing form opposing coaches about UGA the past several years. That about sums up Richt and his coaching staff doesn’t it. Hell Richt even admitted that his team loses games because they didn’t play as hard as the other team. How in God’s name can the A.D, and the powers to be in Athens allow this coach to continue to run the UGA football program. What else needs to happen before McGarity and Adams and the big money contributors run this coach and his coaching philosophy(whatever in the hell it is) out of Athens. Rival coaches know he runs a finesse offense, and they have seen the same stupid plays called and run by BoBo &RIcht for the past 10 years. Richt and his tool have never made any adjustments to their offense, and it shows on the field. Richt’s results on the field the past 5 years, clearly show that his program has become stale, and he has admitted that his players don’t respect him or his coaches, because they refuse to play hard. And Richt and his coaches have proven that they aren’t capable of preparing the team mentally or physically, so i ask UGA fans, alumni, contributors, and A.D, what more needs to happen before enough is enough? It’s so disappointing to watch other teams hire new coaches that bring energy and life into their programs,(Auburn, Alabam,Tenn, Florida, Miss.St.), are all building winning programs with winning coaches, yet we have to sit and watch the same pathetic coaching staff continue to put a terrible product on the field. UGA deserves the same success on the field as these other schools, hopefully we will get what we deserve after this year. This coach has had 11 years to build a successful, respected program, and he has failed at both the past 5 years. Time to end this coaching regime, and move on.

FRED

April 30th, 2011
4:50 pm

Houston should have stayed one more year. Had he played one more year he would have gone up to a 1st round and would have made millions more. These kids get greedy and they loose millions because of there greed.

UGASlobberknocker

April 30th, 2011
5:10 pm

I believe it was the perception of laziness more than the weed that made him drop down so far.

tide roll

April 30th, 2011
5:12 pm

You can’t bring in the 9th rated offensive line class in the Conference while at the same time allow in state studs like James Carpenter, Chance Warmack, Jujwuan James, and now Brandon Greene to leave the state and help your competition beat you. It simply can’t continue to happen. Not if you expect to win.