The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

The SEC Blog: UGA's Blankenship's excellent adventure

1475 days ago
By Kevin Scarbinsky
Photo: SEC

A wise man or woman once said, if you want something done, ask a busy person. So, if you want something done in December, ask Rodrigo Blankenship.

Consider the loaded upcoming itinerary for the Georgia football graduate student. "Your friendly neighborhood kicker," as Blankenship describes himself on his Twitter account - @RodTheKicker3 - will find himself in not one, not two but three exclusive neighborhoods befitting one of the more accomplished student-athletes in SEC history.

Emphasis on student - and athlete. Georgia coach Kirby Smart has called him "an unbelievable ambassador for the University of Georgia," and this ambassador travels.

On Saturday Dec. 7th, Blankenship will be in Atlanta with the East champion Bulldogs in their third straight SEC Championship Game. He'll try to put his footprint on a second conference championship in three years.

Win or lose, two days later, on Monday Dec. 9th, he'll be in Springdale, Ark., for the Burlsworth Trophy luncheon, named for the late Arkansas offensive line great Brandon Burlsworth. Blankenship is one of three finalists for the honor as the most outstanding college football player who started his career as a walk-on.

The next night, Tuesday Dec. 10th, Blankenship will be in New York City for the National Football Foundation Awards banquet as one of 12 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, known as the Academic Heisman. The Campbell Trophy annually recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership.

Blankenship sports a 3.71 GPA as a graduate student. A cum laude Georgia graduate in digital broadcast journalism and three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll, he earned Georgia football's 2017 Sophomore GPA and 2019 Senior GPA awards.

As a Campbell Trophy finalist, Blankenship already has earned an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. If he becomes the ninth SEC football student-athlete to win the trophy since its inception in 1990 - Alabama's Barrett Jones was the last in 2012 - that scholarship increases to $25,000.

While he's in New York, Blankenship may learn that he's the recipient of another national award. At the moment, he's one of nine semifinalists for the Wuerffel Trophy named for former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Blankenship has some familiar SEC competition for college football's premier community service award in Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown, LSU long snapper Blake Ferguson and Texas A&M punter Braden Mann. The Wuerffel Trophy finalists will be announced Nov. 25th with the winner unveiled Dec. 10th in New York.

A partial list of Blankenship's community service work includes giving his time as a spokesperson for "No More," a public service announcement against domestic violence and sexual assault; visiting Camp Sunshine, which provides support programs for children with cancer and their families; volunteering for the "Empty Bowl" luncheon, where ceramic bowls hand-painted by Georgia football players were part of a silent auction to raise funds for needy families; and volunteering for the Home Runs for Hometown Rivals, a softball game at UGA's Foley Field for Special Olympians.

Naturally, Blankenship is a member of the UGA Athletic Association's Leadership Academy (L.E.A.D.).

If that weren't enough potential national hardware on the immediate horizon, Blankenship is a semifinalist for the third straight year for the Lou Groza Award as college football's best place-kicker. The three finalists for that recognition will be announced Nov. 26th.

If he's a finalist, Blankenship will add one more destination to his December travels - back to Atlanta for the Dec. 12th Home Depot College Football Awards Show at the College Football Hall of Fame.

What are the odds of making the short list for even one of those prestigious national awards, let alone all of them? Probably as long as the odds of the walk-on from Marietta, Ga., earning a starting job, earning a scholarship and developing into one of the better kickers Georgia and the SEC have ever seen.

Blankenship stands fifth in SEC history and fourth in Georgia history in scoring with at least four more games to play. If you laid out the records he's set and the honors he's earned, they'd stretch farther than the 55-yard field goal he drilled during the College Football Playoff semifinal victory over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl two seasons ago. He also nailed a 51-yarder in overtime in the National Championship Game against Alabama.

In his college career, he's 6 of 8 on field goals of at least 50 yards, including 3 of 4 this season. He's as reliable as he is explosive, having made a Georgia record of 189 straight PATs, which stands second in SEC history.

The man with the distinctive black goggles known as "Hot Rod" will pile up plenty of frequent flier miles next month in celebration of a distinguished college career. But no matter what happens on the banquet circuit, that distance will pale next to how far he's traveled in the last five years to become one of the more popular and decorated players in Georgia history.

After his freshman year, he beat back a challenge from a transfer kicker to solidify his hold on the starting job. The week of that season's trip to Notre Dame, he learned he had earned a scholarship - then kicked the game-winning field goal with three minutes left to beat the Fighting Irish. At Smart's prompting, Blankenship told the team about his scholarship in the jubilant postgame locker room.

"I just had to go to work and prove that I could be the guy," he said in a UGA video. "It was one of the happiest moments of my life to know that everything I had been doing was going to pay off."

Blankenship favors the Twitter hashtag #RespectTheSpecs. In his case, that respect has been well-earned.