ATHENS - There is something surreal about sitting and talking with James DeLoach in the Georgia football team's facility. The story of the offseason was upheaval, arrests leading to dismissals. And DeLoach was one of the arrests.
And yet here is DeLoach, armed with a second chance, and intending to use it to clear his name.
"I want to get my name out there in a positive way, and I guess prove the rest of my name from all the negativity that happened back in March," DeLoach said. "And just continue to make plays and help my defensive line be the best it can be."
It was in March that DeLoach and three then-teammates were arrested on charges of double-cashing scholarship checks. The other three players are all gone from the team: Receiver Uriah LeMay transferred a few months later, safety Tray Matthews was dismissed after a number of issues, and defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor was dismissed two weeks ago.
Taylor and DeLoach were supposed to only receive "internal discipline," as head coach Mark Richt put it, and not be suspended. But then Taylor was arrested again, charged with felony assault on his girlfriend, and quickly booted from the team.
So now DeLoach stands alone, not only from the other three but especially from Taylor, one of his best friends since elementary school.
"We've done everything together since we were really little," DeLoach said. "It hasn't really hit me yet. I'm pretty sure it's not gonna have any effect on me, or my football."
DeLoach and Taylor have been linked since well before their arrival at Georgia. They grew up in tiny Millen, the seat of Jenkins County. During the recruiting process, Taylor was actually the more highly-rated. DeLoach wasn't considered a throw-in, but when the "two kids from Jenkins County" were mentioned" Taylor got more attention. DeLoach said he doesn't like the assertion that they were a package deal.
DeLoach said he and Taylor still talk every day, but Taylor hasn't told him of what he plans to do next. All he knows is that many football coaches have been calling his friend.
But DeLoach's concern now is his own career. After two years of mostly just playing on special teams and barely playing at outside linebacker, he has a chance to be a starter at defensive end, where the new defensive coaches moved him before spring practice.
"I feel like coach Richt and the coaching staff have given me a second chance," said DeLoach, who has dropped about 20 pounds and is now 276. "I'm gonna do whatever I can to help my teammates, to do what I can do."
DeLoach spoke after Sunday's practice, meeting with the media for the first time since March. There were no UGA staffers monitoring the interview. DeLoach politely answered questions for about 10 minutes, and when the interview ended he made a point of shaking hands.
At one point he was asked what he wanted Georgia fans to know about him.
"I want them to know that I'm a good person," DeLoach said. "And that wasn't me, back in March what happened."
The internal discipline involved "a lot of running" at Georgia's facility, according to DeLoach. But Richt didn't suspend him because he felt enough of a lesson had been learned. It didn't work out in Taylor's case. DeLoach still has a chance to make the arrest merely a footnote.
"It's been a little journey," DeLoach said. "But I'm looking forward. I've put it behind me. So I'm continuing to get better and be a better person, and grow, along with my teammates. ...
"I just dedicate my time to learning the plays, learning the playbook. Basically not being in an environment that would allow me to get in a situation that would involve any more trouble. I hang out with my defensive line, and all of us just grow together and bond."