December 21, 2011

Malcome's big chance

When running back Ken Malcome looks back at his redshirt freshman year, one word immediately jumps to mind - unpredictable.

"Going into every game, going into every week, I didn't know what to expect, from anybody," Malcome said. "Not even from myself from points in time with what I was going through myself. It's been unpredictable but I feel like the season toward the end, things started slowing down and it started to get comfortable. It's a good thing for me now."

Talk about an emotional ride.

Back in late September, Malcome walked away from the Bulldogs, bothered by the notion that he was hopelessly buried on the depth chart at running back behind Isaiah Crowell, Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas and Brandon Harton.

Coupled with some personal issues - issues that to this day he does not care to discuss - Malcome's future with the program seemed tenuous at best.

Even after head coach Mark Richt allowed him to return, rumors persisted that the former Southwest DeKalb star would still consider a transfer, particularly after Malcome, along with Crowell and Thomas, were suspended for the game against New Mexico State for violating a team rule.

Sources later confirmed to UGASports that the suspension was due to a failed drug test, further stoking rumors that Malcome might still seek a transfer after the season was done.

But it's funny how things work out.

With Samuel and Thomas still recovering from their injuries and the staff's apparent intention to motivate Crowell, Malcome has suddenly found himself practicing with the first unit on offense this week during preparations for the Jan. 2 Outback Bowl against 12th-ranked Michigan State."Yeah, I can do that because basically it pushed me more because at lot of the things I went through, almost leaving, having a good game against LSU to becoming the starting running back for the bowl game," Malcome said. "There are a lot of things that go into becoming a starting running back for Georgia. People don't realize it, so this is a big opportunity for me. I'm just waiting for the bowl game"

Malcome rushed five times for a season-high 37 yards after coming on in the fourth quarter during the SEC Championship game against the top-ranked Tigers.

"In practice the past couple of weeks, there hasn't been 'Oh, Ken, you don't know your assignments,' it's been 'good run, Ken, good block,'" Malcome said. "You mess up on some things but as far as how I've been playing, I've been hearing some good things."

Position coach Bryan McClendon recently confirmed Malcome's claim.

"Ken's been doing everything we've asked him to do," McClendon said. "He's been working hard."

But the climb back into the good graces of his coaches and teammates wasn't necessarily easy.

After initially walking away, Malcome knew he had a lot to prove.

"A lot of people don't know what's going on. It's not just football, kind of personal stuff, too. I just came to a point … I felt like I wanted to do it (transfer) at first," Malcome said. "But just by looking at the … trusting in God … these are my teammates, these are my brothers. In my heart, I'm going to be a Bulldog, no matter what happens."

Malcome admits he was disappointed with the way he handled the situation.

"I wasn't man enough to stand up and fight for it," he said. "After thinking about it I realized a man goes through his problem, he faces them. I've faced a lot of problems before, but this was the biggest one I ever faced in my life. I guess I cracked under pressure. Like I told Coach … It would never happen again."

The thought of being labeled a quitter didn't sit too well with him, either.

"I didn't want people to think of Ken Malcome as being a quitter," he said. "I don't want to leave Georgia without getting a name first."

After telling Richt he was leaving, Malcome said he went back to his room by himself to do some serious soul searching.

"I thought about it for a long time. I asked myself if that was really what I wanted to do, I was thinking about all the consequences. I could drop my classes, they could send me home, I could start over my whole career," he said. "There were a lot of things that could happen that I didn't want to."