Kendrick Celestine says Dan Hawkins told him he has earned back his spot on the Colorado football roster, including the scholarship he gave up when he announced he was transferring during the 2008 season.
Celestine, who came to CU from Mamou, La., said he has matured a great deal in his time away from the program. Becoming a father eight months ago played a big part in that, but not being able to play football did, too.
"This experience made me like so hungry for what it was," Celestine said. "It seemed like coming up here, in high school I had it all made. I was balling in high school and doing what I had to do. I had a lot of hype on me and played as a true freshmen, didn't really do what I wanted to do, but not many people get to play as a true freshman.
"I started taking a lot of things for granted, like, 'OK, I don't necessarily have to work that hard.' I didn't do all that extra stuff that got me to where I'm at, and that's when my football game started slipping. ...Now it's on my mind to have a big impact in the offseason and next year because I want it so bad."
Celestine caught 11 passes for 151 yards and ran six times for 27 yards as a true freshman, but CU fans often wondered why he wasn't a bigger factor in game plans. He caught five passes for 46 yards in 2008 before announcing he was leaving Boulder.
Celestine said he wasn't approaching the game and his role in it the right way when he earned playing time as a true freshman in 2007 and as a sophomore in 2008. he could have been much better.
"A lot of things that really stopped me from being on the field my first year was like, I didn't learn the offense," Celestine said. "And it's not that I didn't learn the offense because I didn't understand it. I never took time outside of practice to look at the playbook. Not one time, and it's like, that really hurt me and my performance.
"My plan is to get a playbook as soon as possible and study it every night. That won't even be a problem, me not learning the plays. That was a big problem my freshman year because like they couldn't put me in the game because I didn't know what I was doing. I never looked at the playbook other than at practice. I really needed to study outside of practice. No one understands they didn't have the confidence to put me in the game, but that won't be a problem the next year because I'm getting in the playbook as soon as January hits."
Celestine would not be academically eligible to play if the season started today, but he has the spring and summer semesters to continue to make progress toward his degree and raise his GPA above 2.0
Celestine said he raised his GPA to a 1.9 with a solid performance in the fall semester after returning to school on his own and paying for his tuition and fees with student loans and Pell grants.
When Hawkins was asked in early December about the possibility of Celestine returning to the program, he said he was on track to do so. No formal announcement has been made by the school, but Celestine said Hawkins recently congratulated him on his academic performance this fall and told him he had earned his scholarship back.
Celestine said he missed the game this fall and couldn't bring himself to watch much college football. He said the only Colorado game he watched was the loss at Toledo in September. He said knowing he was not able to help his former teammates made him feel terrible. So he decided to focus on doing what he had to do to put himself in a position where he could make an impact once again.
"I didn't even know who was playing in the national championship until like three days ago when one of my boys called me and told me Texas and Alabama were playing in the national championship," Celestine said. "I didn't watch no football at all."
Celestine said he recently began working out two times a day in preparation for rejoining the team and participating in the offseason program beginning in January. He said he believes he is as fast as ever, but he acknowledged he has a lot of room for gains in strength in the weight room. He said lifting weights was another area in which he didn't give his best effort during his first stint in the program. He said he was missing workouts consistently just before he decided to quit the team in 2008.
"I've been trying to kill myself just to get back in shape so I won't be all sluggish or nothing when it comes down to running and stuff like that," he said. I'm getting ready for coach Pitman. I really want to show him a different guy."
Celestine spent the summer and fall working full time in Boulder at Farmer's Market. It was a lot to handle when combined with his responsibilities as a student and father. In late November, his girlfriend slipped and fell and broke her leg. The injury required a plate and nine screws to begin healing. It also severely restricted her mobility, which meant Celestine had to be around as much as possible for her and the baby.
"Every time I leave the house to go to work out, I've got to make sure bottles and everything are all prepared and in her area," he said.
Celestine said his girlfriend is recovering quickly and beginning her comeback as he continues his.