In a year where there’s been a big run on wide receivers in free agency, and there doesn’t seem to be enough top tier receivers to go around, there is only one guaranteed top ten wide receiver in this year’s draft. Justin Blackmon seems certain to come off the board in the top four-to-six places, and based on his production in college, it’s hard to argue against his success on Sunday’s in the fall.
Numbers never lie, and Blackmon’s production at Oklahoma State is legendary. In his junior year, he caught 121 passes for 1522 yards and 18 TDs, and his sophomore season was just as amazing. His total production his last two seasons was 232 catches for 3,304 yards and 38 TDs. And that’s in 25 games, which included 19 100+ yard games and only 2 games where he failed to score a touchdown. All that, and he’s leaving with one year of eligibility left. If he’d stayed one more year, he could have owned the NCAA record books.
Taking wide receivers high in the draft has been anything but a sure thing over the years. Just ask the Detroit Lions. Before taking Calvin Johnson with the number 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft, they took Mike Williams at number 10 in 2005 and Roy Williams at number 7 in 2004 and Charles Rogers at number 2 in 2003. That’s three top ten draft picks in three successive years that produced anything but first round output.
But even with that kind of history in the draft, it’s impossible to see Blackmon not becoming a huge impact player in the NFL. He’s succeeded at everything he’s done. In high school, he was state champ in the long jump and runner up in the high jump. He was an all-state basketball player who made incredible dunks despite standing only 6-foot-1. He won the last two Biletnikoff awards as the best receiver in college football. And he is driven to succeed, with an attitude and work ethic that separates him from the stereotypical “diva” wide receiver.
His high school football coach, Corey Cole, said, “He’s still the same old kid that he was four or five years ago. I think it’s because of the way he was brought up.”
Cole went on to add, “Here’s what I like about Justin Blackmon: When I talk to him, the first thing he says is, ‘Coach, how’s your wife, how’s your kids?’ That just goes to show you the character of the kid. It’s not, ‘Coach, did you see me the other day, did you see that game?’”
He loves playing with little kids, and he’s always out in his parent’s yard throwing a ball around with the neighborhood kids. “Little kids will come to the door,” his mom, Donna Blackmon, says. “Knock, knock, knock. ‘Can Justin come out and play?’ I’m looking down saying, ‘Well, Justin’s still in bed.’ He’ll yell from his bedroom. ‘Tell them I’ll be out in a minute.’ They have to be in younger elementary, I’m thinking, ‘What?’ And he’s a senior. ‘He’ll be out in a minute.’ Their eyes light up. It’s those type things. I don’t want him to lose those type things. I know it’s going to be hard.”
Donna Blackmon is intensely proud of her son, but not for what he can do on the football field, but for the kind of man he is off the field. “I’m very proud of him, but sometimes I just want my boy, my son,” she says. “My kind, loving ‘Mom, that sure is a pretty dress you have on.’ That’s the kind of kid he is, says things that make your day.”
But don’t let the friendly boy-next-door attitude fool you – he’s an intense competitor on the field. And he’s not the type of playmaker that makes the big catch but shies away from the big hit. Blackmon admits to playing with a chip on his shoulder, saying, “I do play aggressive, try to get them before they get me.”
He blocks, he goes over the middle, and he makes tough catches in traffic. Just look at what he did in his last college game, in the Fiesta Bowl against probable-number-one overall pick Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinals. Luck put up 347 yards and 2 TDs and Stanford racked up 243 yards rushing, but 38 points wasn’t enough to stop the OSU Cowboys. The Cowboys pulled out a 41-38 OT victory despite only 13 rushing yards in 15 attempts thanks to the play of Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Wheedon. Blackmon had 8 catches for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns. His touchdowns were from 17 yards, 43 yards and 67 yards.
He has all the skills and attitude to be a big playmaker in the NFL next season. He’s going to make one NFL franchise very happy on April 26.
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