ARDMORE — There were plenty of stories being told about Justin Blackmon by his family and friends Saturday.
Stories of his character, of his childhood experiences, of his ability to succeed in any sport he chose to play.
But what might have stood out more than anything weren't the memories being told to a group of people, but the memories that were being created for the younger kids in the audience.
Blackmon's No. 81 Oklahoma State jersey could be seen in just about every direction on Justin Blackmon Day in the standout wide receiver's hometown of Ardmore.
“This is crazy,” Blackmon said. “This has been a real experience. I feel blessed to have been able to grow up here and to have this type of community support behind me.”
Blackmon was named as an all-state player in three different sports as a senior at Plainview High and Plainview coaches were among several speakers.
Athletic director and track coach Johni Bell told a story about Blackmon in his senior season. Oklahoma State recommended Blackmon participate in track his senior season instead of playing baseball.
Despite having not competed before, Blackmon won the 3A long jump and was the runner-up in the high jump. The Indians placed second as a team, losing by just six points.
“I remember him, after we went back to our tent, placing his head on my shoulder and saying ‘I'm sorry. I let you, my teammates and myself down,'” Bell said. “I told him that when he goes to OSU, to remember that feeling right now and to never let him feel like he let his teammates down — to always give it his all. And he has.”
Blackmon said he never really thought about the memories that were being discussed. He was just being a kid. But now he understands his role as an example for younger kids to look up to.
Any reminder he needed was right there with 9-year-old Olivia Hamilton in the audience. Hamilton, who has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia for two years, is one of Blackmon's biggest fans. Olivia's story was documented in The Oklahoman in October.
Olivia's mother, Jennifer, said Blackmon is her daughter's hero.
“It does mean a lot to me to see all these kids here,” Blackmon said. “I just hope I can give them a positive role model to look up to. The kids help me remember why this is so much fun.”