Blackmon gives Jaguars a big, physical receiver

Posted April 27, 2012 @ 6:43 p.m.
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By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Four years younger than his brother, Justin Blackmon spent much of his childhood getting knocked around.

On the football field. On the basketball court. In the living room.

Then Blackmon hit the weight room. And things changed dramatically.

Blackmon bulked up, surpassed his brother athletically and eventually became one of the best receivers in college football. The Jaguars traded up two spots to select the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Blackmon with the fifth pick in the NFL draft Thursday night, potentially giving them a play-making receiver for the first time in years.

Blackmon's turning point came back when he was a junior at Plainview High School in Ardmore, Okla. After years of prodding from his brother, Blackmon finally started lifting weights. Blackmon didn't notice much difference early on, but his brother, Warren, sure did. Warren returned home from a semester at Prairie View A&M University and found his younger sibling transformed.

"I was shocked," Warren Blackmon said Friday. "We both could dunk, but when I come home to watch him play games, he'd do like a windmill dunk, a 360 dunk. I was never able to do any of that."

Blackmon has been impressing people ever since, in high school and at Oklahoma State.

He really caught Jacksonville's attention. The Jaguars gave up a fourth-round pick to move into position to draft Blackmon.

"He's a football player," new coach Mike Mularkey said. "There's not one particular thing he does better than the other. He's a complete player, does it all, unselfish in everything he does. I know our team's going to be excited about having him, not just on the field but in the locker room."

The franchise's fan base celebrated wildly Thursday night, raising expectations for the team's highest draft pick since selecting LB Kevin Hardy second overall in 1996.

"No pressure, not at all," Blackmon said. "It's still football. This is what I've been doing for a while. When you start thinking about pressure and everything, you're not thinking about the game. I like to focus on what I can focus on and that's playing football."

Owner Shad Khan sent a private plane to New York on Friday morning to pick up Blackmon, his brother, sister and parents. They arrived in Jacksonville around lunchtime, toured the facility and were officially introduced.

Blackmon spent a few minutes with QB Blaine Gabbert, met with coaches and got his first look at the playbook.

"I'm just anxious and ready to get in there and see what I can get into," Blackmon said.

Blackmon caught 122 passes for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Cowboys last season. He had 111 receptions for 1,782 yards and 20 scores the previous year. Big, strong and physical, Blackmon could be just what the Jaguars need to bolster the league's worst offense.

"Throwing to elite receivers is easy because they're very talented," Gabbert said.

The Jaguars also added receivers Laurent Robinson and veteran Lee Evans in free agency, two guys who could help Blackmon learn the NFL ropes in a hurry.

Mularkey raved about Blackmon's competitiveness, something he credited to growing up trying to keep up with his older brother.

"Every time I tried to go out there, I tried to compete, whether it's playing football or playing video games, anything," Blackmon said. "I try to compete in everything I do. I think it really just came from trying to compete with my brother and his friends and just getting beat down so many times and trying to bounce back and just always fighting."

Blackmon's confidence, maturity and determination were evident during his first day on the job.

He grew up on a military base in Oceanside, Calif. His father was a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, and his mother was a school teacher. He was raised in the church, playing drums and singing in the choir.

"It was pretty strict coming up," said Blackmon, the second of three children. "We were structured real well. We knew the right things to do, the wrong things to do and we were held accountable for everything. It just prepared me real well to be out there on my own and to handle different situations."

The weight room did the same.

"Me and my friends tried to get him into the weight room because he was just long and lanky," Warren said. "He got in the weight room, worked hard and became a leader on his team. ... He's a hard worker. He's always been a hard worker."

 

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