Dec. 27, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Arnold Blackmon has heard about size all his life. He has come to understand that size doesn’t always really size up the man.
“All my life, people have said I was undersized,” said Blackmon, one of Marshall’s two junior college football signees last week. “Sometimes, they’d even say I was overweight. But size hasn’t mattered to me.
“I think the No. 1 thing about me is the fact that I work hard all the time, offseason, during the season. I have hard work just hard-wired into me. Always have. I never give up.”
That’s probably what Thundering Herd Coach Doc Holliday wants to hear from a player he expects to be relentless as a potential fix for the Herd’s pass rush on a defense that’s looking for a boost and a new coordinator.
Blackmon, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound defensive end, starred at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, this season. He’ll be a junior for the 2013 season for the Herd.
Navarro had eight major college signees, and Blackmon was one of them, from a 10-2 team ranked No. 4 in JUCO rankings. He led the Southwest Junior College Football Conference with 21 tackles for loss and was second with eight sacks. He also had an interception return score of 37 yards.
“We looked for a defensive end who can rush the passer, come off the edge and get after the quarterback,” Holliday said. “We think we’ve got the guy we need.”
Blackmon – obviously – has done something about his perceived size issue. He’s grown two inches and gained 30 pounds since he went to Navarro, and when he arrives at Marshall for the start of semester classes in mid-January, he figures he’ll be ready to learn what he needs to know.
Blackmon had offers from Kansas State, Kansas, New Mexico, Houston and Old Dominion in addition to the Herd. That was much more attention than he had leaving Bellaire High in his hometown of Houston, where he said “it was a struggle for me to get offers because I moved from offensive line to linebacker to defensive end. I don’t think all of the transition helped, and then I was only 215 pounds back then.”
Part of Blackmon’s issue is that he was often compared to his father, also Arnold Blackmon. The elder Blackmon played basketball for national JUCO power San Jacinto (Texas) as a 6-7, 230-pound power forward, then went on to play at Division II Cal State-Los Angeles.
At Navarro, he took advantage of injuries to other defensive linemen to get into the rotation as a 2011 freshman. As a backup, he finished the season with five sacks.
“To be honest, I’ve been a little bit of both, a pass-rush guy and a run stopper,” Blackmon said. “You know what they say; they’ll try to run it first and if they can’t, they’ll go to the pass. You’ve got to be able to adapt. I’ve played both ends, even some 3-technique (a smaller tackle who lines up on the outside of the right guard for a rush gap).
“Whatever they want, I’m ready. I mean, words can’t explain how excited I am about coming to Marshall, how thrilled I was on signing day. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll have any kind of problem.”
Blackmon said he plans to give Herd senior offensive tackle Jordan Jeffries some company in his major. Jeffries is the only Marshall football player majoring in engineering.
“I talked to him when I was up there (on his visit) and Jordan gave me some great information, filled my in a lot,” Blackmon said. “It’s engineering all the way for me. I’d like to get into mechanical engineering.
“I’ve been interested in that since I was a little kid, and I told my mom when I got to college, that’s what I wanted. We had good academics at Bellaire, and my mom told me the one thing no one can take away is your education, so I’ll be taking care of things there.
“This is an opportunity I have that not many people get, the opportunity for a scholarship and an education. The NFL is a dream, but for me, the goal is getting a degree. That’s why I’m so excited about this. It’s so important to me.”
Blackmon visited Marshall and saw the Herd’s Dec. 8 men’s basketball victory over Coppin State. He said he didn’t know much or “hadn’t heard much” about the school until the release of the cinematic “We Are … Marshall,” but has since studied the significance football plays at the school for which he will play.
“There are some real genuine people up there,” Blackmon said. “While I was there, from talking to people, it’s obvious they love football. It’s a football town. They want the program to get back to a championship level.
“The coaches talked to me about putting me in the mix as soon as I got there. They expect my performance to make an impact on defense. No one is going to have to worry about me not working hard.
“I think it’s important for someone like a Coach Holliday, when he’s watching you on film or in person, to see the relentlessness in a player. They can teach you how to play, but the effort already has to be there.
“I’d say my strong suit has been effort, about wanting it, this opportunity. That’s not going to change.”