CB Blackman shows off his skills for Hornets
WINCHESTER — No matter how impressive your prior accomplishments might be, you’ve got to start making impressions all over again when you go to a new school.
The impression from the start — and for a long as he’s a Shenandoah University Hornet — is that sophomore cornerback Sean Blackman is a player you can build a team around.
“We did seven-on-seven outside of spring ball, just the players,” SU junior free safety Byron Mitchell said. “I was just amazed. He’s athletic. One time he made a one-handed interception over somebody.
“I told [defensive coordinator] Brock [McCullough] before the season that he could be taking somebody’s spot, and he’s been starting for us all season. He hasn’t let me down since.”
The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Blackman — an all-state cornerback at Group AAA Stonewall Jackson in Manassas — originally planned on playing college at the Football Championship Subdivision level (formerly Division I-AA) at North Carolina Central.
After enrolling in the spring, SU is Blackman’s third college stop. But especially since he currently lives at his aunt’s house in Winchester, he appears to have a found home on the field — Blackman ranks fourth on the Hornets with 41 tackles — and off.
“I never thought this would be a school I would look to go to,” said Blackman, who will try to help the Hornets (1-7, 0-5 Old Dominion Athletic Conference) win their conference game at 1 p.m. today at Emory & Henry. “But after sitting back and thinking about it, it’s just football, regardless of whether I’m going D-I or D-III. That’s all I really wanted to do, and that’s why I chose to come here.
“I enjoy being here a lot. Academic-wise, the school is better than I thought it was going to be, and football has been exactly what I thought it was going to be. I wasn’t familiar with anybody before I got here, but we’re all here to play football, and we all have common goal to win and be successful. I kind of just blended in with [the players] as soon as we started doing lifting and other football activities. It didn’t take long for me to get used to the players and for them to get used to me.”
Blackman might have just “blended in,” when he first arrived at SU, but given his background it’s not surprising that it hasn’t taken him long to stand out.
Because of his all-state career at Stonewall, which he graduated from in 2010, Blackman said a number or large colleges showed interest in him, including the University of Richmond, University of Delaware, Villanova and Holy Cross.
Blackman decided on North Carolina Central University — a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference — where he said he red-shirted his freshman year. But following the 2010 season North Carolina Central hired a new coach, Henry Frazier III, and Blackman said he was not in the new coaching staff’s plans.
Blackman did not immediately look for another playing opportunity, though. After the 2011 spring semester he transferred to Old Dominion to be a student only, but halfway through the semester he got the itch to begin playing again.
He thought SU — which had recruited him while he was in high school — might be a good fit. Even though he didn’t consider them seriously in high school, the coaching staff did make an impression on him. Plus, there was the added benefit of having family nearby. Blackman also has a grandmother who lives in Winchester.
“I stay at my aunt’s house in the school year, so it’s been a big help having them here and helping with the transition,” Blackman said.
As for making the football transition, there’s been no problem.
“He’s really coachable,” McCullough said. “I told him last week at practice that I love him, because he’s does exactly what he’s coached to do. If you tell him to do it, he’ll do it. If you told him to turn around backwards and do jumping jacks, he’ll do it just because he’s that coachable.
“As far as his athleticism, he can run, he can jump, he can catch — he was an all-region running back in high school too.”
As a result, Blackman is now a player the Hornets want to put on the opponent’s best receiver.
Two weeks ago McCullough said he felt Blackman did an excellent job when he was matched up with Hampden-Sydney’s Holton Walker, the ODAC’s top receiver (63 catches for 1,060 yards and 10 touchdowns). Walker had a big day (eight catches for 146 yards and a touchdown), but McCullough said those catches mostly came when Walker was in the slot away from Blackman, or when the Hornets were in zone and didn’t stick Blackman on Walker.
“He can basically do it all,” Mitchell said. “He can jam on the line, beat a receiver up, and throw them off on their routes.
“He’s the definition of lock-down, in my opinion. It doesn’t matter the size of the receiver, he can go up, get it, and knock it down. He’s also been big in the tackling game, which surprised me. I didn’t think he’d do as well as he has, but he sets the edge very good. When the ball runs his way, it’s either going out of bounds or he’s going to make the stop right there.”
Blackman takes pride in doing every little thing he can to help the team, and that’s helped him improve as the season has gone on.
“I never feel like I’m satisfied with what my play is,” he said. “I want to improve every single week, so I go about every practice trying to improve every aspect of my game.”
Actually, there’s still one thing that Blackman hasn’t done — make an interception. He’s the one member of the Hornets’ starting secondary who doesn’t have one, which is something that Mitchell jokes about with Blackman.
Blackman’s been through this before — his first interception his senior year at Stonewall didn’t come until the seventh or eighth game — but back then he was a known commodity.
“Being that this is my first year here, I was expecting a lot more opportunities to get interceptions,” Blackman said. “I’m actually shocked that I haven’t been thrown at more than I have. The opportunities have been there, but I just haven’t capitalized. It’s a little disappointing, but I still feel like I’m playing at a high level, and I think I’ve only been scored on once this season. I’m reaching the goals I set.”
Of course, maybe opponents just figured out early on that staying away from Blackman is simply in their best interests.
“What a great addition he’s been,” SU head coach Paul Barnes said. “He’s a coachable young man who gives everything he has. He’s solidified our corner position this year. I’m glad he’s wears the midnight blue, I’ll tell you that. We have a history of great corners here, and if he continues like he has, he’ll be considered one of the better corners we’ve ever had here.”
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1