When Justin Blackmon played football at Plainview High School, opponents tried several tactics to slow down the talented wide receiver. One team even played a basketball-like, box-and-one defense.
Blackmon won't see such an exotic defensive scheme Friday night during an NFL preseason game in New Orleans. But Oklahoma State's two-time All-American will realize a lifelong goal when he makes his professional debut with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Playing in the NFL was a very important dream of mine,” Blackmon said in a phone interview with The Oklahoman. “It's going to be a very exciting time.”
Unlike many rookies trying to make NFL rosters, the fifth overall pick from last year's draft will be closely scrutinized.
Besides being a two-time Biletnikoff winner as college football's top receiver, Blackmon made national news for two DUI arrests in a 20-month period, the most recent June 4 in Stillwater.
Two days after police reports revealed Blackmon's blood-alcohol level was 0.24, three times the legal limit, Blackmon apologized to Jaguar fans. He said he doesn't have an alcohol problem. He vowed to stop drinking. Last week, Blackmon said he hasn't had alcohol since.
“I believe since the incident, his approach to everything he's doing on the field and in meetings was different,” Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey told the Florida Times-Union last week.
Blackmon has incentive to avoid another slip. Blackmon, who was the last first-round pick to sign, received a guaranteed four-year $18.5 million deal. But the contract is fully guaranteed only if Blackmon isn't suspended for off-the-field issues.
“I've put it behind me,” Blackmon said. “I just move on and go forward. There's not much I can do. I'm ready to play football.”
Blackmon has a support system that reaches beyond the Jaguars organization. His father, Warren, is a retired Marine lieutenant. His mother, Donna, is a kindergarten teacher.
“I see the family support system. I see what we have in place here,” Jaguars general manager Gene Smith told the Jacksonville media. “I see a young player that's got to learn from this mistake and change the way he leads his life.
“If he does that, he's got a legitimate opportunity to have a happy ending to all this.”
Three-sport All-State selection
The high-profile prep recruits in Oklahoma from Blackmon's senior class were Muskogee wide receiver Jameel Owens, Guthrie running back Kye Staley, Carl Albert running backs David Oku and Muskogee defensive lineman Stacy McGee.
But there were signs before Blackmon arrived at OSU that the three-star recruit from a Class 3A school in Ardmore was underrated.
Blackmon led Plainview's football team to a 12-1 state semifinal season as a senior. He averaged 24.9 points for the basketball team. Blackmon gave up baseball and decided to join the track and field team. He won the long jump state title and was runner-up in the high jump despite having never competed in the event before that season.