Junior defensive tackle Kade Weston can admit it now that Georgia's season is almost complete: His knee was killing him throughout the course of the 2008 campaign.
Flash back to preseason. With a little over two weeks to go in August camp, Weston suffered an injury to his MCL, which required surgery.
He missed the first two games before returning for the SEC opener against South Carolina and played admirably the rest of the year despite the knee injury which actually hurt a bit more than he let on.
"It was really bad. If you're coming off the line with a weak leg, you can't push off and you tend to get unbalanced and not able to do what you want to do," Weston said. "I felt like I was never really able to get in a groove. I was really favoring the leg so it was really hard."
Weston isn't looking for pity. Not in the least.
As is the case with both offensive and defensive linemen, the physical punishment a player takes on a daily basis is difficult to consistently absorb.
"It's hard. It's very rare where you see a guy who isn't always hurting," Weston said. "When you've got 300-pound bodies banging in practice every day, you're going to get injured. When you do that consistently throughout the year on a consistent basis it's going to take its toll."
Assistant coach Rodney Garner was pleased with the effort and grit that Weston showed to make it through.
According to the Bulldogs' defensive line coach, it would have been easy for Weston to pack it in for the year to give the knee as much rest as possible. Weston's loyalty to his teammates didn't let that happen.
"I'm very proud of Kade for staying out there and fighting through it," Garner said. "A lot of guys might not have fought through it. He never really was 100 percent this season, but I thought there at the end he came out against Georgia Tech and probably played his best game. He just did a great job of fighting through this thing and still made a positive impact on the team."
But Weston admits it wasn't easy.
The New Jersey native said he was in the best shape of his life before going down in the spring.
"It was really tough, because coming into camp I was feeling good and everything was going great," Weston said. "It was so close to the season and having to have surgery it was really frustrating knowing that you couldn't do much. I just had to shake it off and keep going."
Weston credits Georgia's training staff under the direction of Ron Courson for that.
According to Weston, Courson and Garner made sure that he stuck to a certain practice routine so not to aggravate the injury further.
"They just made sure I didn't overwork my knee so it wouldn't swell up or anything," Weston said. "I just knew I had to stay in there."
Especially, Weston said, after teammate and good friend Jeff Owens went down with a torn ACL in the opener against Georgia Southern.
"Those kinds of things can happen to anybody. I'm just lucky that it didn't happen to me the first time," Weston said. "I just wanted to get back out as quick as I could, just to be able to help Geno (Atkins), Corvey (Irvin) and all the rest of the guys with the reps in practice."
As for next year, Weston said he'll definitely be back with the Bulldogs.
Some had speculated that the big defensive tackle might entertain an early exit from Athens and take a look at the NFL, but that won't be the case.
"Nah, I'm definitely coming back," he said. "You can count on that."
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