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Buford's Lee fights back from ailment into UGA starting lineup

File Photo - University of Georgia's Dallas Lee, a Buford grad.

File Photo - University of Georgia's Dallas Lee, a Buford grad.

ATHENS -- It can be truly said that the 2011 college football season is a breath of fresh air for Georgia offensive lineman Dallas Lee.

Back in March and April, the 2008 Buford grad wasn't certain he'd be able to continue playing football due to a mysterious respiratory ailment that caused him to miss all of spring practice.

Roughly six months later, Lee is back on the field, having broken into the starting lineup for the first time in his career at right guard, and has been a factor in the Bulldogs' (3-2, 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference) three-game winning streak as they head to Knoxville on Saturday for a meeting with Tennessee.

"It interrupted my spring, but ... God blessed me with the ability to heal when I went home in May," Lee said following Georgia's 24-10 win over Mississippi State last Saturday at Sanford Stadium. "We finally found a medicine combination that worked. It's nice. God's blessed me to be able to come back and play the sport I love."

What has made Lee's return particularly gratifying is the fact the exact nature of the ailment that kept the 6-foot-4, 300-pound redshirt sophomore out of action for nearly a full year still isn't fully known.

"It was something related to my breathing," Lee said. "The doctors still haven't figured it out, (but) it's been resolved.

"There were definitely doubts. It was getting close to where I was thinking I was going to be done for good because it had been about a year of the doctors trying to figure stuff out. They couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. I mean, that was scary going out every day knowing I couldn't breathe and knowing that they didn't have an answer for it. I couldn't participate all spring, so that when I did heal in May, it was just an all-out blitz this summer to get back everything that I'd lost and to get in the shape I'm in now."

And Lee's return was not a moment too soon for the Bulldogs, who were already a bit thin on the offensive line heading into the season and took another blow when starting left guard Kenarious Gates was injured in a season-opening loss to No. 5 Boise State.

He did a strong job his first two weeks as a starter in Georgia's loss to South Carolina the following week and a win over Coastal Carolina the following week.

And he's shown plenty of versatility by moving over the starting right guard spot the last two games after Gates returned to the lineup.

The irony that his opportunity to start came as a result of an injury after he missed so much time with an ailment is not lost on Lee, though he prefers to think about that task at hand, rather than look back.

"You've definitely just got to put it behind you and concentrate on what you have to do," Lee said. "(Injuries) just happen. Everybody knows that. It put me out for spring. That's why you have the number of people that you have. ... You've just got to have people ready to play when somebody goes down."