Kade Weston laughed when he thinks back to his early days at Georgia, a true freshman away from his home of Red Bank, N.J., trying to adjust to life in the SEC.
It was not easy.
Besides getting used to life in the Deep South, the oppressive heat during workouts and a drill sergeant for position coach in Rodney Garner were enough to make Weston's head swim.
Flash forward to Saturday.
Prior to the Bulldogs' home finale against Kentucky, Weston will be honored with the rest of Georgia's 22 other seniors, the final home game for a player coaches feel have elevated his game as much as any member of the current team.
"Kade went from a guy who was a pretty good football player, a good solid football player to a guy who really started to dominate," head coach Mark Richt said. "It all started with the offseason. That guy trimmed his body, got in the best shape of his life and changed his physique. He changed his quickness and the ability to change direction and his ability to play hard every down without the fatigue factor."
Even Garner has been pleased, not only with Weston but also with fellow senior tackles Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens.
"He's elevated his game," Garner said of Weston. "I thought all along that they were pretty interchangeable. It's really difficult at times to determine who should be the starter; they're really all Nos. 1."
Weston said coming to Georgia was the best decision he ever made.
At 6-foot-5, Weston fought the battle of the bulge for the early part of his career, that along with a myriad of injuries that slowed his progress.
However, after three seasons of that, enough was enough.
Weston spent the summer getting into the best shape of his collegiate career. The hard work has paid off. Along with Owens and Atkins, Weston has assured himself a spot at the next level in the NFL.
"I wouldn't change my experience here for nothing," Weston said. "If I could go back, I'd still be a Bulldog. Nothing has changed. I've loved it here."
Playing with Owens and Atkins has been a highlight as well.
Nicknamed the "Three Amigos," Owens and Weston have been together the longest - five years to be exact - while Atkins is wrapping up his fourth year as a member of the unit after playing as a true freshman.
"We've been here so long together, we're just like brothers," Weston said. "You might not agree with each other on some stuff. You might fight, but you get over it. Nobody holds a grudge and we've grown really close over the years."
The three make up an interesting dichotomy to be sure.
Weston and Atkins come across as being quiet and reserved, while Owens is the proverbial "Social Butterfly," conversing with fans on Facebook and Twitter.
"Jeff is Mr. Social," Weston said. "Geno and I are kind of alike, but the thing people don't know about Geno is when he gets to talking you can't pay him to get quiet."
The thought that one day soon the three will be going their separate ways has not been lost on the three friends.
"We talk about it, but we don't let it get in the way of what we're still trying to do," Weston said. "We'll probably really think about it after the bowl game, or maybe after Georgia Tech, but right now we're still having fun and trying to have fun the rest of the weeks we've got here."
Weston has certainly made his presence felt.
Both Weston and Owens enter Saturday's game with 24 tackles, but of Weston's total, 6.5 have been for losses of 28 yards, including 2.5 sacks.
"Kade's done a great job this season, he's stepped up big time," Owens said. "He had a great off-season. It is our last go-around and he wanted to make the best of it, which I think he has. He took advantage of his opportunities."
However, Weston still feels he has much work to do.
"I'm pleased, but I'm not satisfied," he said. "I'm still working on a lot of stuff and I've got to get better."
Credit Garner for pushing Weston to be his best.
Garner can be rough on a true freshmen, and was on Weston. However, those lessons helped make him the player he has become today.
"I remember there was one play I kept messing up on. It was a simple play. I was already redshirting, but Coach (Garner) was like 'I wish I could redshirt you again,'" Weston said. "I was like, yeah, yeah. However, I did not let it bother me. I know he didn't mean it like that. He just always wanted me to be the best I could be.
"That's all I tried to be."
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