Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

November 27, 2012

H.O.T. Bowl: Navarro DE Blackmon’s tenacity key to successful year

Corsicana — At 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, Arnold Blackmon was the prototypical college power forward in the early 1980s. Although not an overly skilled offensive player, Blackmon was a beast on the boards, flexing his generous muscles with every rebound.

Blackmon looked so good while at powerhouse San Jacinto College that three and four years after he had left for Cal State-Los Angeles, Division I coaches were still calling Raven coaches asking about “that big, strong kid you had playing inside.”

As much as Arnold Blackmon looked the part 30 years ago in Pasadena, his son certainly didn’t appear to have the ideal size to play Division I football at defensive end when he came out of Bellaire High School two years ago. At 6-1, 218, he had the size of a safety, but he played the defensive line with a tenacity that caught the eye of the Navarro coaching staff.

Two years later, Blackmon is an inch taller and almost 20 pounds heavier. He still doesn’t have dad’s size, but that every-down doggedness has Division I recruiters interested.

“I’d love to be heavier and to put on a couple of pounds of muscle weight, but I’m never going to be as big as my father,” said Blackmon before a Navarro practice for Saturday’s Heart of Texas Bowl against Georgia Military in Copperas Cove. “I’ve made the most of my opportunity here at Navarro and I hope to get the chance to play on the next level.”

Blackmon’s numbers certainly are tantalizing. He led the Southwest Junior College Football Conference with 21 tackles for loss and was second in the league with eight sacks. Blackmon also returned an interception 37 yards for a score in Navarro’s season-opening win against Arkansas Baptist.

College recruiters have taken notice of his active motor. Marshall and Old Dominion have already offered him a scholarship and he has trips set up to Kansas State (Dec. 7) and New Mexico (Dec. 14). He’s open to other schools, provided he can secure a good education to go with an opportunity on the football field.

“I’ve been fascinated by engineering since I was young,” he said. “I came from an academic environment at Bellaire where you’d better be prepared to take care of your business in the classroom every day.

“My mom has always told me that the one thing no one can take away from you is your education. I think about that all the time.”

But Blackmon might not have the opportunity to pursue a degree in engineering had he not excelled on the football field. Being undersized, he knew quickly when he was a freshman that he had to make a splash as soon as possible.

Flanked by fellow freshman Houstonian Michael Jolivet and eventual Division I signees Calvin Barnett (Oklahoma State) and Tevin Mims (South Florida), Blackmon worked his way into the line rotation by the third game on 2011.

“(Jolivet) and I got thrown in so fast last year because of injuries to other people that it was kind of a shocker,” Blackmon said. “Thanks to Coach (Andrae)  Rowe, we got as good as we were going to get technique-wise and it was time to get on the field and produce.”

And produce they did. Blackmon and Jolivet combined for three sacks in a showdown between No. 1 Blinn and No. 2 Navarro at mid-season. Blackmon eventually garnered five sacks as a reserve on a star-studded defensive line.

“The older guys set a great example for us,” he said. “They taught us a lot about practice. We can make practices as intense as we want to make them and that makes our games a lot more fun to play in each week.

“This year we enjoyed watching the young guys who were trying to make some noise like we did last year. They came out and played with a lot of energy, just like we did last year. It makes those games a lot of fun.”

Blackmon also has benefitted from working in practice against the likes of Aleon Calhoun, Zach Fondal and Mitchell Bell, all prime Division I offensive linemen prospects.

“Those are guys who are going to go on and play in the SEC or the Big 12 and we get to see them every day,” he said. “It’s really a dream come true to go against them because they test us day in and day out. We know that if we’re going to stay a top tier team, that we’re going to have to be able to practice well against players that good.

“That’s what has made practices so enjoyable here — the daily competition. But even if you are having a down day or the defensive line as a group is not having a good day, the most important thing is to end practice strong. That’s what (Barnett) taught us. And now we’re passing that down to the freshmen. Finish strong during the week and you’ll play strong on Saturday. That’s how we’ve been successful and that’s how I’m going to practice and play on the next level, if I’m given the opportunity.”

Thanks to some very athletic genes, hard work on and off the field and some impressive stats, it’s doubtful that opportunity will not be there for Blackmon during the December signing period.

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