Sprayberry kicker sees more honors
by Emily Horos
ehoros@mdjonline.com
December 20, 2012 01:12 AM | 3018 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rodrigo Blankenship
Rodrigo Blankenship
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Although he’s just a sophomore, Rodrigo Blankenship can boast that he is one of the best kickers in the country after winning the National Kicking Championships last weekend in Bradenton, Fla.

The 15-year-old Sprayberry student won the high school division at the competition and outperformed all 17 seniors in the scholarship division for college-bound kickers.

Blankenship was one of 32 kickers invited to the competition after attending a camp organized by

Prokicker.com. He was the only sophomore.

“There were over 30 other kickers there, most of them seniors — some of the best kickers in the country — and I beat all of them in every aspect of the camp,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship averaged 65 yards for kickoffs with an average hang time of 3.77 seconds, and he made 90 percent of his field goals attempts. He also had the longest kickoff for both divisions (75 yards), the best hang time for both divisions (4.06 seconds) and he won the field goal kicking competition after connecting from 60 yards.

“It was nice to know that I am at the point where I can compete with another kicker from any age group,” Blankenship said. “I can go against some of the best seniors and outlast them on any given day.”

Blankenship, who played his freshman year at Walton High before transferring to Sprayberry, said he has played soccer his whole life, and he only took up football in the fifth grade with the intention of being a kicker.

“I made my first field-goal attempt, and that was the end of that,” he said. “I was a field goal kicker.”

Sprayberry coach Billy Shackelford doesn’t think it will take long for college programs to notice Blankenship — especially after his latest achievement.

“In my opinion, he is the best kicker in the country,” Shackelford said. “If he were a senior this year, I think he would be commanding Division I scholarships. The good thing, he is still has two years of high school. He has a tremendous future ahead of him. I see a lot of attention coming his way, and deservingly so.”

Shackelford says what makes Blankenship unique is his dedication.

“Obviously, he is really talented, but the thing that sticks out to me is his work ethic,” Shackelford said. “I’ve coached a lot of kickers in my time, and I’ve seen a lot of kids kick, but Rodrigo is a student of the game. He looks at kicking as a craft and an art and he really works on it.

“He has a real structured regiment and workout. He is real relentless. He isn’t good on chance and he doesn’t ride strictly on ability. He really works at it. It’s his work ethic that sets him apart.”

Blankenship said he takes about three weeks off from kicking each year. The rest of the time, he works out several times a week, either with a personal trainer or on the field at Sprayberry’s Jim Frazier Stadium.

“I keep trying to better myself,” Blankenship said. “Sometimes, I work on hitting the crossbar from the sidelines or a no-step, one-step drill. I play H-O-R-S-E and try to make it down a certain half of the field to work on control from shorter and longer distances. There’s tons of stuff I do to improve.”

In his career, Blankenship has been named a Georgia Middle School Athletic Association All-Star twice, an Eastbay junior All-American and been selected to play for Team USA. He was also named the top participant in camps at Ohio State and Florida.

Blankenship has set lofty goals for his remaining years of high school, which include making a 60-yard field goal each season, playing in the junior bowl and senior bowl and making the all-county team.
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