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McGair: Where there's a 'Will,' you'll find the Giants' Blackmon

February 1, 2012

Hendricken High and Boston College grad Will Blackmon has overcome a litany of injuries to reach the Super Bowl with the New York Giants.

The next time you visit, do yourself a favor and type in “Will Blackmon Recovery.” The segment is only 10 minutes in length and offers terrific insight into someone who’s been repeatedly knocked down throughout his six-years-and-counting NFL odyssey, only to refuse to stay down for the count.

It just seems appropriate, given the laundry list of injuries he’s endured, that Blackmon’s first name is Will. The hard road he’s traveled, coming back from two major knee surgeries, has been well worth the tireless hours of rehabbing toil, including the countless repetition of medicine ball drills designed to bridge the gap in allowing Blackmon to bear fruit in a most satisfying fashion.

Come Sunday night in Indianapolis, Blackmon will be part of a New York Giants outfit that opposes the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. The fact that he’s a native Rhode Islander, one who grew up on the Providence/Cranston line near Roger Williams Park and attended Bishop Hendricken, is certainly cause for celebration, especially since it’s not every day you see a local lad appearing on football’s grandest stage.

The tale of Blackmon cuts deeper than the plaudits typically set aside for a successful hometown story. The 27-year-old has been forced to travel down the comeback trail all while struggling to shake the stigma that he’s injury prone (As a pro, Blackmon has played only one 16-game season). Never once, though, has Blackmon been detoured and rerouted towards a life away from football.

It’s one thing to be blessed with all of the necessary gifts one needs in order to make a career out of playing football. To have the “Will” to dig deep in the face of overwhelming odds – such firm resolve has allowed Blackmon to get back on the field where these days he serves as a reserve cornerback with experience as a punt/kickoff returner for the Giants.

For those who have coached Blackmon, his story of perseverance is a familiar one.

“I don’t know if you can acquire toughness, but to have the will and drive is what puts guys like Will on that elite level in the NFL,” noted Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani, who served as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator when Blackmon called Chestnut Hill home. “Unfortunately he’s had some injuries but he’s an elite competitor. If there’s a way to get back, he’ll get back.”

Added Ron Mosca, who was Blackmon’s head coach at Hendricken: “He’s been forced to come back a lot. His athletic ability is obvious and he doesn’t quit. He’s resilient and keeps trying.”

Blackmon was with the Giants for five games in 2010 before landing on the injured reserved list with lingering complications from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered while he was with Green Bay – the franchise that selected him out of Boston College in the fourth round of the 2006 draft – the previous season. He underwent an additional corrective procedure last January, one that was geared toward cleaning up any lingering issues, but would delay his availability for the start of the 2011 campaign.

Blackmon, who rehabbed under the close surveillance of trainer Gavin MacMillan at Sports Science Lab, located down the street from his offseason home in California, resurfaced with the Giants this past October. His NFL career, once seen as being in severe jeopardy, had received a new lease on life.

“He worked very hard,” noted Mosca, adding that he still keeps in touch with Blackmon. “If he could stay healthy, he would be one of those players you would read about all the time.”

To his coaches, Blackmon was always a cut above everyone else. Mosca admits that it was hard for him not to break his cardinal rule of not allowing high school freshmen to play varsity – no matter that his special exception (Blackmon) was approaching six feet in height and could run like a deer.

“He had the type of special skills that you don’t see around here too often,” Mosca said. “The speed, the balance, the eyesight, the jumping ability, he had it all.

“Will was a national recruit. We had people flying in from around the country to visit with him,” added Mosca. “He was a high school All-American and played in the (2002 U.S. Army All-American Bowl), which is for the top 100 players in the country.”

The Will Blackmon that Spaziani remembers is one who wasted little time in bursting on the scene, hence why the BC coaching staff saw absolutely no need to redshirt him during the player’s freshman season in 2002. Much like his tenure at Hendricken, Blackmon’s time at Boston College saw him shift around the field, whether it was lining up at wide receiver, in the secondary or awaiting kicks.

“We haven’t had too many guys like him around here,” Spaziani noted, “and he was certainly gifted enough to (contribute from the get-go) even though he lacked experience. He was just very explosive.
“We knew exactly what kind of athlete we were getting,” Spaziani delved further.

Mosca set the mood at Hendricken these days, saying that the school’s hallways are divided with New England fans standing their ground in the midst of Blackmon loyalists. “He mentioned that if the Giants win, he’s going to stop by Hendricken before going home to California.”

Certainly that would be validation in capping off what would be a successful season for the Giants. Validation has a completely different meaning for Blackmon, for his tale of not giving up – or in – is one that makes him more than just a Rhode Island native who’s gone on to bigger and better endeavors.

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