Five questions with ESPN Sport Science host/creator John Brenkus about Justin Blackmon
By now, you’ve probably seen the ESPN Sport Science piece on Justin Blackmon that hit the Internet last Friday.
Show creator/host John Brenkus has seen a lot of stud athletes come through the Sport Science Lab. But how did Blackmon stack up?
I caught up with Brenkus earlier this week to chat about why Blackmon was selected for the show, the results gathered in the lab and how Justin was on set.
1. What about Blackmon made you want to analyze him for the show?
John Brenkus: The athletes that we end up getting in the Sport Science lab come from various sources. Justin’s segment in particular came from us collaborating with ESPN on who we felt were the biggest impact players this year. He was on a very, very short list of players that everybody felt could have the biggest impact on the game this year. We reached out to him, and he really jumped at the opportunity.
2. How did you decide what specific aspects of his game to focus on?
JB: We felt like just showing his range was sort of underselling what makes him unique. For us, it was his ability to adjust to the ball that was so unique. That’s why we had the idea of saying, all right, what if we had myself as the quarterback, who obviously cannot throw a pinpoint pass, throw it to one of the greatest receivers all the collegiate level at this point to kind of see how he can adjust on the fly? We really wanted to see reaching behind him, reaching way above him, trying to spin around. What was interesting is it was almost like I could throw it with a blindfold. It didn’t matter where I was throwing the ball—he could literally catch anything. So the data that we were able to generate through the tests was something that we felt would really translate to the audience in terms of how special he really is.
3. Did anything surprise you about his skill set?
JB: His vertical leap being as high as it actually was—being able to reach as high as Plaxico Burress even though Plaxico is about four inches taller. It’s something that you put in perspective. Plaxico Burress is a huge target, and Justin actually presents himself as just as big of a target without being nearly the size. It really did seem like he was sort of jumping out of the roof of our building. It was pretty impressive in terms of his total range and his ability to adjust on the fly.
4. How was Justin during the filming process? How many takes did you have to do?
JB: He was fantastic. A common denominator with all athletes who are the best at what they do is they really do step up to the challenge. When we were filming, it wasn’t like we had to shoot over and over because he wasn’t trying his best. He was trying his best out of the gate and was really blowing us away. If we were getting data and results that we were like, ‘Wow, that’s nothing spectacular,’ then it wouldn’t make the air. It just simply wouldn’t make it to segment. But when you’re dealing with people like Justin, who are the best at what they do, the reason why he’s the best is he gives it 100 percent every time that he’s out there, and that’s the same thing that he did in the Sport Science Lab.
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