Monday, August 15, 2011

UNC's Houston eager to ditch orange jersey

North Carolina tailback Ryan Houston continues to wear a precautionary orange don't-hit-me jersey in practice, but said he can't wait to take it off.

"So eager, I just can't wait to go to my metal locker and see, ‘blue jersey!'" Houston, a redshirt senior, said today. "Know what I'm saying? I just can't wait for the day. It [will] be like Christmas, whenever they give me that blue jersey."

Houston, who had shoulder surgery after fracturing his right scapula during the Spring Game, is extra eager because he hasn't played for more than a year. After sitting out the first five games of last season as the NCAA investigated the football program for academic misconduct and impermissible benefits, Houston was cleared, but opted to redshirt the rest of the season.

"It was real hard, especially during the bowl game, on the 1-yard line, screaming like, ‘Forget it, I don't care, I just want to help my team,"' Houston said. " ... But now ... it just makes me hungrier for this year."

He said he holds no resentment about having to sit out those five games: "No, they did what they had to do, and I applaud the University for getting my back, and trying to help, and doing the best things possible for me, and I feel like they made a good decision," he said. "They didn't know what was going on, I didn't know what was going on, and I feel like they made a great decision."

Houston said his shoulder feels good, and that he will be ready for the Sept. 3 season opener. He said he thinks the team is being extra cautious with him, especially after redshirt freshman tailback Gio Bernard suffered a non-displaced fracture to his left hand Saturday. Bernard is being held out of contact drills this week, but could play if there was a game tomorrow, interim head coach Everett Withers said.

"I'm ready -- they just don't want me to to go in there and [mess] something up, because then it would be like, 'Dang, we're down two running backs,"' Houston said. "So it's just more of a precautionary thing. ... They know that I know the plays and I've just got to take my time, and whenever they're ready to let me go forward, I'll be ready."

-- Robbi Pickeral