There's no question about Kiante Tripp's toughness. After all, he dislocated his right thumb on the first day of preseason practice this past Monday and tried to pull it back into place himself.
Even so, he is still proving that he's good enough to be Georgia's starter at right tackle.
Tripp has made a noticeable leap up the depth chart since switching from defensive end to offensive tackle during last year's preseason camp.
He won the starting right tackle job in the spring and looks forward to being Trinton Sturdivant's tackle partner on the Bulldogs offensive line.
"On Monday, a D-lineman came across and popped my thumb out of place," Tripp said.
"I thought it was just jammed so I popped it back into place. It didn't go back the way it was supposed to. So I ran to the sideline and coach (Stacy Searles) said 'What are you doing? Get back in there.' So I ran back with it all messed up and kept playing with one hand. Coach doesn't believe in injuries."
Tripp wears a soft cast during practice to protect his thumb. The good news is that it's hard for an offensive lineman to hold when one of his thumbs is in a cast.
Tripp entered last year's preseason camp as a redshirt freshman defensive end. But the offensive line needed another body and Searles targeted Tripp.
"Coach Searles is a great recruiter," Tripp said. "He kept saying to me, 'You need to be on the offensive line. You need to be on the offensive line.'
"I was trying to get into the team and play. I saw last year that the O-line was hurt in that last camp. I came up and said I'd help. I played O-line in high school, too."
"So it wasn't too much of a change," Tripp added.
Switching from defensive end to offensive tackle requires more than just stepping across the line of scrimmage. Tripp needed to gain weight and needed to learn footwork and hand placement the way the coaches wanted.
"He's excited about it," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "He gained the weight in a way that wasn't sloppy. He gained it in a way that just kept going on that really beautiful frame that he's got. He got stronger. He got quicker. He's got it down pretty good."
The switch gave Tripp a green light to eat the best groceries Georgia's training table offers. Tripp said his weight went from 265 pounds on a 6-foot-6 frame at the start of 2007 camp to about 280 now. The weight room wasn't solely responsible for the gain.
"I did a lot of eating peanut butter and jelly, too," Tripp said. "I'd eat three major meals and snacks in between. I'd eat two hamburgers, some vegetables, mashed potatoes and some dessert of course. Then on top of that, I drink a lot of chocolate milk."
Although Tripp has never played a defensive down for the Bulldogs, his practice experience gives him insight to how his opponents think and he believes he can use that against them.
"I can bring the speed and the D-end knowledge that I have to the O-line," Tripp said. "I know the techniques that they use and how to block them. I know what they're trying to do so I've got that edge over them."
But the biggest change for Tripp has been mentality. Offensive linemen move at a slower pace than defensive ends. They tend to stay on the field for longer stretches and need to pace themselves both mentally and physically. Tripp learned that lesson after his first practice with the offensive line.
"I caught a full-body cramp my first day on the O-line," Tripp said. "Things kind of slow down on the O-line compared to the D-line. They told me I had to slow down and on that first day I caught a cramp that started in my back and it just laid me out.
"There's a different mentality. I keep hearing that I've still got that D-end mentality and I'm so tense and ready to kill somebody. I've got to relax so that's what I've been working on."